Stock markets chase Wall Street higher

HONG KONG (AFP/ APP): Asian and European stocks rose Friday, after a strong performance on Wall Street, as investors hoped that rising global interest rates would curtail sky-high inflation.
The positive mood came after Federal Reserve minutes indicated the US central bank could take a breather in hiking interest rates if inflation shows signs of easing later in the year.
Hong Kong led the way in Asia as forecast-beating earnings reports by tech titans Alibaba and Baidu sent their shares soaring.
Gains remain capped by a range of crises also including China’s Covid-19 lockdowns and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Yet investors remain soothed by hopes that rising global interest rates will help bring down sky-high consumer prices that threaten the post-pandemic recovery.
‘Tentative green shoots’
“After a torrid few months, there are some tentative signs of green shoots emerging as investors become more comfortable with the stance of the central banks in tackling inflation,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.
Back in Asia, investors were in a buying mood as Hong Kong jumped more than two percent, with market heavyweight Alibaba piling on more than 11 percent and search engine Baidu advancing 15%.
The two firms posted better-than-expected sales growth in the January-March quarter, soothing fears about the impact of Covid and inflation on their bottom lines.
Hong Kong’s tech index jumped nearly three percent, with other giants also enjoying buying interest with JD.com and Meituan sharply up.
The reports were much-needed pieces of good news out of the world’s second-biggest economy, which is being battered by lockdowns in major cities as leaders refuse to budge from their zero-Covid strategy.
‘Welcome tonic’
Asian investors took the lead from Wall Street, where all three main indexes enjoyed a second day of gains after strong earnings from retailers including discount firm Dollar Tree, department store Macy’s and the more upscale Williams-Sonoma.
The readings bolstered hopes consumers were more resilient to inflation and rising rates, and came as a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey showed US shoppers largely expect upward price pressures to be temporary with gains easing in the long term.
“With all the doom and gloom surrounding US retail over the past couple of weeks the numbers were a welcome tonic,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.
Earlier in the week, markets rose as minutes from the Fed’s May meeting suggested policymakers could temper their campaign of rate hikes later in the year if inflation looks to be plateauing.

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