By ELAINE KURTENBACH – Japan Today
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. Shares were mixed in Asia on Thursday as the latest batch of company earnings reports kept investors in a buying mood, driving gains on Wall Street. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
Shares were mixed in Asia on Thursday as the latest batch of company earnings reports kept investors in a buying mood and pushed benchmarks on Wall Street higher.
Markets in China remained closed for Lunar New Year holidays. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index lost 1.1% to 27,241.31 while the S&P/ASX 200 gave up 0.1% to 7,078.00. Seoul’s Kospi climbed 1.7% to 2,707.82, catching up on earlier gains elsewhere after markets in South Korea reopened from holidays.
U.S. futures declined, with the contract for the S&P 500 down 1%. That for the Dow industrials fell 0.1%.
Investors are reviewing the latest round of corporate earnings to gauge the damage that rising costs have had on different industries and how companies will deal with inflation moving forward.
Most of the companies that have reported results for the last three months of 2021 have delivered earnings and revenue that topped forecasts, despite the higher costs they face due to rising inflation.
But investors in Asia were rattled when Facebook parent company Meta Platforms plunged 22.9% in after-hours trading after its latest quarterly earnings did not meet Wall Street estimates.
Oil prices fell after major oil-producing countries decided Wednesday to stick with their plan to just a bit more oil to the global economy. That will likely keep prices near their highest levels in seven years. The 23-member OPEC+ alliance opted to add 400,000 barrels per day in March.
U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 55 cents to $87.71 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It had gained 6 cents to $88.26 per barrel on Wednesday.
Brent crude, the basis for pricing international oils, lost 43 cents to $89.04 per barrel.
Wednesday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 0.9% to 4,589.38. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.6% to 35,629.33 and the Nasdaq added 0.5% to 14,417.55. The indexes are on pace for solid gains this week.
Small company stocks bucked the broader market rally. The Russell 2000 index fell 1% to 2,029.52.
Traders bid up shares in several companies that reported solid quarterly results, helping lift the broader market. Google parent Alphabet jumped 7.5% for the biggest gain in the S&P 500 after it said its digital ad business had propelled a 36% jump in profit last quarter. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices rose 5.1% after it reported surprisingly strong fourth-quarter financial results and gave investors an encouraging sales forecast.
About three-fourths of the companies in the benchmark S&P 500 index rose, led by communication services and technology stocks. Health care companies also accounted for a big share of the gains. Big retailers and other companies that rely directly on consumer spending fell. Amazon slid 0.4% and Gap fell 3.3%.
Bond yields fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 1.77% from 1.80% late Tuesday.
Markets are facing various threats including rising inflation, the prospect of higher interest rates, potential conflict in Ukraine and COVID-19′s continued drag on economic recoveries.
With inflation at a 40-year high, rising costs are threatening profit margins and putting pressure on consumer spending. The Federal Reserve intends to raise interest rates to try to tamp down price increases. Investors expect the first rate hike in March and at least three more in 2022.
With about 40% of S&P companies having reported quarterly results so far this earnings season, about 64% have posted earnings and revenue that topped analyst estimates, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Some have fallen short of Wall Street’s expectations.
PayPal slumped 24.6%, its worst trading day since it split from eBay in 2015, after reporting a weak quarter and subdued guidance.
In other trading, the U.S. dollar was unchanged at 114.43 Japanese yen. The euro was flat at $1.1306.