Asian stocks higher ahead of possible US rate hike

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BEIJING — Asian stock markets were mostly higher Tuesday as investors braced for another sharp interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve to cool inflation.

Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul advanced. Tokyo edged lower. Oil rose more than $1 per barrel.

Wall Street ended up 0.1% on Monday ahead of this week’s Fed meeting at which officials are expected to announce a rate hike of up to three-quarters of a percentage point, triple the usual margin. That would put the Fed’s benchmark rate in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%, the highest since 2018 before the coronavirus pandemic.

Mixed market reactions suggest investor sentiments are split and optimists hope for a “Fed dial back,” said Tan Boon Heng of Mizuho Bank in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to 3,276.71 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed less than 0.1% to 27,680.41. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 1.5% to 20,868.29.

Alibaba Group, the world’s biggest e-commerce company, announced plans Tuesday to change the status of its Hong Kong-traded shares to make them more accessible to mainland Chinese buyers.

Alibaba went public in New York in September 2014 and completed a secondary listing in Hong Kong in November 2019. The proposed change would upgrade Alibaba’s Hong Kong status to a primary listing along with New York, making the shares eligible for purchase through mainland brokerages.

The Kospi in Seoul added 0.2% to 2,408.60 after the government reported the South Korean economy grew by a stronger-than-expected 0.7% over the previous quarter in the three months ending in June.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was 0.1% higher at 6,798.00.

India’s Sensex opened down 0.7% at 55,365.32. New Zealand retreated while Southeast Asian markets gained.

Investors worry aggressive rate hikes by the Fed to contain inflation that is at four-decade highs and similar action by central banks in Europe and Asia might derail global economic growth.

U.S. inflation has accelerated to 9.1%, its highest since 1981.

The U.S. economy is slowing, but healthy hiring shows it isn’t in recession, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Sunday. Fed officials who have publicly supported a rate hike also cite a relatively strong job market as evidence the economy can stand higher borrowing costs.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 advanced to 3,966.84 Monday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.3% to 31,990.04. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.4% to 11,782.67.

The major indexes are coming off solid gains last week following a mix of mostly better-than-expected reports on corporate profits.

On Monday, Walmart shares fell nearly 10% in after-hours trading after the retail giant lowered its profit outlook for the second quarter and full year. The company said shoppers are cutting back on discretionary items, particularly clothing, that carry higher profit margins.

On Thursday, the Commerce Department is due to release its first estimate of U.S. economic growth in the thee months ending in June. Some forecasters expect a second quarter of contraction after output shrank 1.6% in the three months ending in March.

Also this week, tech heavyweights Apple, Meta, Microsoft and Amazon are due to report results. So are Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose $1.29 to $97.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained $2 to $96.70 on Monday. Brent crude, the price basis for international trading, advanced $1.33 to $101.52 per barrel in London. It added $1.95 the previous session to $105.15.

The dollar declined to 136.49 yen from Monday’s 136.72. The euro rose to $1.0230 from $1.0221.

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AP Technology Writer Zen Soo contributed.

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