Asian shares mostly higher after wobbly rally on Wall St

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday after U.S. stocks rallied on heavy buying of technology companies. Advancing Chinese technology shares also pushed Hong Kong sharply higher.

Benchmarks likewise rose in other regional markets. Oil prices remained near $120 per barrel.

Investors are waiting for more clarity on where interest rates, inflation and economies are heading.

Japan’s economy contracted at a 0.5% annual rate in the first quarter amid a major outbreak of coronavirus, the Cabinet Office reported. That was smaller than the 1.0% contraction in the preliminary estimate. The latest data showed consumer spending and other private demand was not as weak as earlier thought.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1% to 28,234.29 while the Kospi in South Korea was little changed at 2,626.14. In Sydney, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 0.4% to 7,121.10.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 2.1% to 21,987.92 as Chinese technology stocks surged after Beijing approved a new batch of video games. That was seen as a sign the business outlook for tech companies is improving after a prolonged regulatory crackdown.

The Shanghai Composite index reversed early losses, gaining 0.5% to 3,259.24.

Tencent, China’s largest games firm, rose 5.9% even though it was not directly affected by the government approvals. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding soared 9.6% and food delivery concern Meituan advanced 3.5%.

U.S. stocks rallied Tuesday as Treasury yields eased. The S&P 500 climbed 1% to 4,160.68 after reversing a morning loss of 1%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.8% to 33,180.14 after bouncing between losses and gains throughout the day. The Nasdaq composite gained 0.9% to 12,175.23.

Gains by Apple, Microsoft and other technology stocks were some of the biggest forces lifting the market, as the 10-year Treasury yield fell below 3%.

Stocks of energy producers also jumped as oil prices rose to roughly $120 per barrel, up more than 55% for the year so far. Exxon Mobil climbed 4.6%, and ConocoPhillips added 4.5%.

Kohl’s soared 9.5% after the department store chain said it’s in advanced talks to sell itself for about $8 billion to Vitamin Shoppe owner Franchise Group. Jam maker J.M. Smucker rose 5.7% after reporting stronger earnings than analysts expected.

Stocks initially fell after Target warned of lower profit margins as it slashes prices to clear out inventory. The retail giant sank 2.3% after it announced moves it said were needed to keep up with customers’ changing behaviors.

Other retailers got caught in the downdraft, and Walmart fell 1.2%.

The World Bank sharply cut its forecast for economic growth this year, adding to worries as it pointed to Russia’s war against Ukraine and the possibility of food shortages and the potential return of “ stagflation,” a toxic mix of high inflation and sluggish growth unseen for more than four decades.

The economy’s fragility has been atop Wall Street’s mind this year amid worries about interest-rate hikes coming from the Federal Reserve. The central bank is moving aggressively to stamp out the worst inflation in decades, but it risks choking off the economy if it moves too far or too quickly.

The Fed is widely expected to raise its key short-term interest rate by half a percentage point at its meeting next week. That would be the second straight increase of double the usual amount, and investors expect a third in July.

Treasury yields have largely climbed through this year with expectations for a more aggressive Fed. They moderated a bit on Tuesday, though.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell back to 2.98% from 3.03% late Monday. The two-year yield, which more closely tracks expectations for Fed action, dipped more modestly to 2.72% from 2.73%.

The next big update on inflation arrives Friday, when the U.S. government releases its latest reading on the consumer price index.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil added 59 cents to $120.00 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 91 cents to $118.50 per barrel on Tuesday.

Brent crude, the standard for international trading, picked up 46 cents to $121.03 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 133.17 Japanese yen, up from 132.61 yen. The euro slipped to $1.0693 from $1.0705.

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AP Business Writers Yuri Kageyama and Zen Soo contributed.

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