By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com-- Asian stock markets retreated for a fourth consecutive session on Thursday as investors feared a potential shock from U.S. inflation data, while rising COVID-19 cases in China drove concerns over renewed lockdown measures.
China’s bluechip Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 index fell 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite index shed 0.2%. Concerns over new COVID-related restrictions came back to the fore this week after infections in Shanghai hit a three-month high.
Authorities have already closed schools and outdoor venues in China’s financial capital, driving concerns over the imposition of more serious lockdowns.
The developments come before the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on Sunday, which is expected to define policy for the next five years. Markets will be watching for any changes to Beijing’s strict COVID Zero policy, which has decimated economic growth this year.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index and the Taiwan Weighted index were the worst performers in Asia, losing 1.2% and 1.5%, respectively, as investors feared more disruptions from new U.S. restrictions on semiconductor exports to China.
Shares of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TW: 2330 ), the world’s largest chip maker, slumped nearly 10% this week, given that the move will likely dent its markets in China. Other technology stocks, including Hong Kong’s BAT trio- Baidu Inc (HK: 9888 ), Alibaba (NYSE: BABA ) (HK: 9988 ) and Tencent (HK: 0700 )- fell between 0.9% to 2.4%, losing for a fourth straight session this week.
Broader Asian markets retreated, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 index and India’s Nifty 50 index both down about 0.5%. Inflation readings from both countries this week showed that their respective economies will have to contend with higher prices for much longer.
Focus now turns to U.S. CPI inflation data due later in the day. The reading is expected to show that U.S. inflation remained pinned near 40-year highs in September, giving the Federal Reserve more impetus to keep hiking interest rates and bring down inflation.
Minutes of the Fed’s September meeting also showed that the bank has little intention of softening its stance, and intends to in the long-term.
Rising interest rates have battered Asian markets this year by reducing liquidity and making risk-driven assets appear less attractive. Tightening measures by the Fed were mirrored by most regional central banks.
Sentiment also remained muted as markets feared a potential debt crisis in the UK, ahead of a Friday deadline for the Bank of England to end monetary support for the bond market.
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