By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com-- Most Asian stocks traded in a flat-to-low range on Wednesday as a swathe of weak data ramped up concerns over slowing economic growth, with Japan’s Nikkei index falling the most amid some profit taking.
Regional trading volumes were also limited on account of a holiday in China and Hong Kong.
The Nikkei 225 sank 1.6%, and was the worst performer among Asian stocks on Wednesday as losses in automobile and energy stocks weighed. Investors locked in some profits after the index marked three straight days of gains.
Strength in the yen also weighed on export-oriented stocks, as the Japanese currency saw increased safe haven demand amid growing fears of a U.S. recession.
Risk sentiment was battered this week following a string of softer-than-expected economic readings from major economies. Wall Street indexes sank in overnight trade after data showed some cooling in the U.S. jobs market , while JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM ) CEO Jamie Dimon warned that turmoil in the banking sector was not yet over.
Federal Reserve officials also warned that U.S. interest rates could keep rising despite slowing economic growth.
This, coupled with signs of prolonged weakness in global manufacturing, ramped up concerns over a potential recession this year. A spike in oil prices, following a surprise output cut by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), also pushed up fears of high fuel prices keeping inflation elevated.
Appetite for most risk-driven assets was limited, while safe havens such as gold and the yen rallied.
Philippine stocks were among the few outliers for the day, rising 0.5% after data showed inflation eased more than expected in March. South Korea’s KOSPI also added 0.4% after data earlier this week showed inflation was easing.
Australia’s ASX 200 fell 0.1% after Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe warned that the bank could still keep raising interest rates to curb high inflation, even after it held rates steady on Tuesday.
India’s Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex 30 indexes rose 0.4% each in catch-up trade after a holiday on Tuesday. Focus is now on a Reserve Bank of India meeting on Thursday, which is likely to result in a rate hike.
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