Most stocks fell Tuesday after a Wall Street sell-off fuelled by fresh recession worries following a report that Apple planned to ease back on spending due to uncertainty over the economic outlook.
The drop across most markets in Asia also came as oil held a Monday surge caused by fading expectations that Joe Biden had convinced Saudi Arabia to pump more to ease a supply crisis and temper prices.
The losses among equities ate into Monday’s gains, which came after a forecast-beating US retail sales report suggested consumers — the key driver of growth — remained resilient despite decade-high inflation and rising interest rates.
And analysts warned that with the earnings season just getting under way, there could be more pain ahead for investors as firms report falling profits or warn about the outlook.
In a sign of concern among big-cap firms about an economic slowdown or recession, Bloomberg News said tech titan Apple was pulling back on hiring and some investments.
The news follows similar belt-tightening moves by other Silicon Valley giants including Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook parent Meta.
“With Apple putting up their hand and acknowledging they have too many staff, it is a clear sign of caution from the mega-cap heavyweight giants amid an uncertain time,” said SPI Asset Management’s Stephen Innes.
“Investors are hoping for a ‘kitchen-sink’ quarter where corporates flush out all the bad news at once — but I am not sure that will happen, and I think this makes it difficult to put an absolute bottom on the equity selloff.”
The report led to a reversal on Wall Street, with all three main indexes ending in negative territory, having enjoyed most of the day well up.
And Asia struggled Tuesday.
Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Wellington and Manila all fell, though Tokyo rose as investors there returned from a long weekend to play catch-up with Monday’s regional rally.
Innes added that markets were likely to face pressure for some time as central banks continue to lift borrowing costs to fight inflation, risking an economic downturn.
“The probability of recession is dominating US discussions, as inflation might have peaked in June while the Fed still has a couple of massive hikes ahead before possibly pausing,” he said.
“We always hear that the rate hikes are in the price, but they are always a shock when the market actualises the reality, especially when they are of the jumbo variety.”
While some are predicting inflation may have reached its peak, oil prices — the key driver of soaring prices — continues to hold its strength, despite recent losses.
Both main contracts rocketed more than five percent Monday on expectations that Riyadh will not open up the taps further, with Biden’s plea seeming to have fallen on deaf ears.
Traders are also keeping a nervous eye on Europe, where a 10-day maintenance shutdown of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline from Russia is due to come to an end.
Many fear Vladimir Putin will keep it shut down in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. That would deal another blow to the already creaking eurozone economy and could send crude prices soaring.
Supply fears are trumping worries about a demand hit in China from another possible lockdown in Shanghai as officials struggle to contain another Covid-19 outbreak.
– Key figures at around 0230 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 26,977.37 (break)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.7 percent at 20,701.98
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,270.56
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0140 from $1.0146 on Monday
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.1940 from $1.1950
Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.84 pence from 84.88 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 138.24 yen from 138.13 yen
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $102.45 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $106.02 per barrel
New York – Dow: DOWN 0.7 percent at 31,072.61 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.9 percent at 7,223.24 (close)