Investors continue to fret over sky-high inflation and rising interest rates

Hong Kong (AFP) - Markets were mixed Monday having pared earlier losses but sentiment continues to be clouded by fears that central bank moves to rein in soaring inflation will induce a recession.

The tepid performances come after a sell-off last week fuelled by the Federal Reserve’s sharp interest rate hike – the biggest in nearly 30 years – and a warning of more to come, while increases in Britain and Switzerland added to the gloom.

And while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq saw gains on Friday, there is a sense that indexes still have some way down to go before they find a bottom, with economic data suggesting economies are beginning to feel the pinch.

Cleveland Fed chief Loretta Mester added to the worry, saying that the risk of a recession in the United States was increasing and it would take several years to bring inflation down from four-decade highs to the bank’s two percent target.

She told CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday that while she was not predicting a contraction, the Fed’s decision not to act sooner to fight rising prices was hurting the economy.

In Asian trade Monday, Tokyo, Shanghai Sydney, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok and Wellington were all in the red, though there were gains in Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta.

London edged up, Paris fell and Frankfurt was flat.

Analysts warned there was likely to be more pain ahead for traders as the Ukraine war drags on and uncertainty continues to reign.

“Central banks’ hawkish rhetoric and concerns over a global economic slowdown/recession (are) not helping sentiment and at this stage it is hard to see a turn in fortunes until we see evidence of a material ease in inflationary pressures,” said National Australia Bank’s Rodrigo Catril.

And Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management added: “Most of these major central banks are praying for some relief from inflation and hoping the data falls in line, but unless there is a detente in the Ukraine-Russia war, escalation will continue to drive energy price fears so it could be a tough road ahead.”

Oil prices were also mixed Monday after suffering a hefty drop Friday over demand worries caused by a possible recession.

However, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said prices could continue to surge if the European Union cuts off imports of the commodity from Russia in response to the Ukraine war.

She said Joe Biden had called on global suppliers to ramp up output to help temper the price rises, with the president to discuss the issue during an upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia next month.

Bitcoin remained stuck below $20,000 but was up from the $17,599 touched at the weekend, its lowest level since December 2020.

“Rising interest rates, an acute risk-off mood across markets, a thinning of liquidity is all to blame: in short the end of free money from the Fed means the artificial pump that created these assets is no longer working,” said Neil Wilson at Markets.com.

- Key figures at around 0810 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 25,771.22 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.4 percent at 21,163.91 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,315.43 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,023.44

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 134.73 yen from 134.99 yen late Friday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2227 from $1.2221

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0513 from $1.0493

Euro/pound: UP at 85.97 pence from 85.83 pence

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.3 percent at $109.85

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.1 percent at $113.00 a barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 29,888.78 (close)

– Bloomberg News contributed to this story –