Asian Shares Decline On U.S. Debt Ceiling Worries

Asian stocks hit two-month lows on Thursday and the dollar rose on safe-haven demand as the impasse in negotiations to raise the U.S. debt ceiling and warnings of a possible U.S. credit rating downgrade spooked investors.

Traders remained wary of a possible catastrophic default, with U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen maintaining early June as a deadline.

Chinese shares edged down slightly amid U.S. debt ceiling jitters and after reports of a new COVID wave in the country. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.1 percent to 3,201.26 ahead of a long holiday weekend.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.9 percent to 18,746.92 following disappointing earnings from electric-vehicle maker XPeng Inc.

Japanese shares eked out modest gains as encouraging earnings results from chip giant Nvidia boosted tech stocks. The Nikkei 225 Index rose 0.4 percent to 30,801.13, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.3 percent lower at 2,146.15.

Advantest soared 16.2 percent, Tokyo Electron rallied 3 percent and Screen Holdings surged 4.4 percent. A weaker yen lifted export-oriented firms, with Honda Motor and Canon rising 1-2 percent.

Seoul stocks ended down for a second day running, with the Kospi finishing half a percent lower at 2,554.69 on U.S. debt ceiling woes and concerns about the future policy path of the Federal Reserve. SK Hynix jumped 5.9 percent after Nvidia’s earnings.

Earlier today, the Bank of Korea held interest rates steady at 3.5 percent as widely expected and cut this year’s growth estimate amid the global economic slowdown.

Australian markets fell for a fourth straight session on interest rate and U.S. debt ceiling worries. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.1 percent to 7,138.20, with miners and financials pacing the declines. The broader All Ordinaries Index closed 1.0 percent lower at 7,316.70.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index settled 0.1 percent lower at 11,959.85.

U.S. stocks fell overnight as debt ceiling negotiations dragged on and minutes from the Federal Reserve’s May meeting showed officials were split over the need for further rate hikes.

The Dow shed 0.8 percent to extend losses for the fourth day running, the S&P 500 gave up 0.7 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite declined 0.6 percent.

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