Asian stocks fall, trading muted with Good Friday and holidays

TOKYO – Asian stocks fell in muted trading as most global markets were closed for Good Friday and other holidays.

Benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai. Sydney, Manila, Bangkok and Hong Kong were among Asian markets observing public holidays on Friday. US and European markets were also closed.

After markets closed, China’s central bank freed up additional money to lend to support the slowing economy by reducing the amount of reserves commercial banks are required to hold.

The move added about 500 billion yuan ($85 billion) to the loan pool, a relatively small sum compared to the size of China’s economy.

Closures in major Chinese cities due to the coronavirus epidemics and the war in ukraine weighed on sentiment.

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“The inflationary effects of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict are now more significant than direct military developments in a market sense. These consequences have created an uncertain environment that could keep investors wary,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

“It should be a quiet session given the Good Friday holiday,” he added.

The head of the International Monetary Fund warned Thursday that Russia’s war against Ukraine darkened the outlook for most countries and reaffirmed the danger of high inflation for the global economy.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 0.3% to end at 27,093.19. The South Korean Kospi fell 0.8% to 2,696.06. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.5% to 3,211.24.

Investors once again turned their attention to the drama surrounding Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk and Twitter. Musk offered to buy the social media company for $54.20 per share, two weeks after revealing he had accrued a 9% stake.

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Musk has criticized Twitter for failing to uphold free speech principles and said in a regulatory filing that it should be turned into a private company. Twitter’s stock fell 1.7% to $45.08 on Thursday, well below Musk’s offer price.

Markets had a mixed bag of economic data to scrutinize after several hot inflation reports earlier in the week. The US Commerce Department said retail sales rose 0.5% in March, boosted by higher gasoline prices as consumers continued to spend despite high inflation.

The number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose last week, according to the Labor Department, but remained at a historic low. The data reflects a robust US labor market with near-record job openings and few layoffs.

Inflation remains at its highest level in 40 years in the United States and that forces economists and analysts to closely monitor the reaction of consumers to the rising prices of everything from food to clothing to essence.

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In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude added $2.70 to $106.95 a barrel on Thursday, closing nearly 11% higher for the week. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $2.92 to $111.70 a barrel. Markets were closed on Friday.

In currency trading, the US dollar fell from 125.87 yen to 126.45 Japanese yen. It is hovering at 20-year highs. The euro traded at $1.0817, down from $1.0829.

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AP Business Writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed.

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Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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