ASX likely to rise, Wall Street slips as Jerome Powell says US recession is a ‘possibility’
The Australian share market may begin its day higher, despite Wall Street’s struggle to hold onto any of its gains from earlier in the session.
- Investors are worried the US Fed’s aggressive rate hikes may lead to a recession
- Australian dollar has dropped 9.6pc since its April peak (76.6 US cents)
- Oil prices fell by 4pc on concerns that a global downturn may reduce fuel demand
ASX futures were up 0.4 per cent, to 6,412 points, by 8:40am AEST on Thursday.
US markets were weighed down by comments about inflation from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell, who appeared before the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday (local time).
He said the Fed was “strongly committed” to bringing down inflation, which had reached its highest level in 40 years, while trying not to cause a recession in the process.
However, Mr Powell said that achieving a “soft landing” for the US economy would be “very challenging”.
The Fed chair said he believed the US economy is currently strong, but acknowledged that a recession could happen.
“And, frankly, the events of the last few months around the world have made it more difficult for us to achieve what we want, which is 2 per cent inflation and still a strong labour market.”
The United Kingdom is also struggling with the rising cost of living. The latest figures showed that inflation lifted to 9.1 per cent in May — a fresh 40-year high for the British economy.
‘Global forces’ sink Aussie dollar
The Australian dollar was buying 69.2 US cents, after falling by 0.7 per cent overnight.
But it fell by an even steeper 1 per cent against the Eurozone and Japanese currencies, down to 65.5 euro cents and 94.3 yen.
“The coming sharp slowdown in the world economy will be a weight on the Australian dollar because it is very sensitive to global forces,” said Commonwealth Bank currency strategist Carol Kong.
“Indeed, our forecast for the Australian dollar to weaken to 62 US cents next year is underpinned by a large expected fall in Australian key commodity prices.”
“We assume commodity prices fall by around 40 per cent at the end of 2023 in line with our commodity analysts’ forecasts.”
Iron ore tumbled by another 3 per cent, to $US111.50 a tonne, according to ANZ data. This steelmaking material is Australia’s biggest export to China, which is undergoing an economic slowdown.
Ms Kong said “the recent fall in iron ore prices reflects market worries China’s pledge to boost infrastructure investment may not materialise given China’s zero COVID policy.
‘Not out of the woods yet’
Investors are trying to assess how far stocks can fall as they weigh risks to the economy, with the US Fed hiking rates to bring down surging inflation.
The S&P 500 earlier this month fell more than 20 per cent from its record high in January, confirming the common definition of a bear market, with the benchmark index last week logging its biggest weekly percentage drop since March 2020.
Last week, the ASX 200 also experienced its worst trading week since the initial COVID-19 sell-off. It has fallen by around 15 per cent since its August record high, placing it firmly in correction territory.
“Markets continue to be volatile,” Baker Avenue Asset Management’s chief strategist in San Francisco, King Lip, said.
“Certainly we are not out of the woods yet … the concerns are still there.”
Overnight, the S&P 500 lost 0.1 per cent, to close at 3,760 points. The Nasdaq Composite fell by 0.2 per cent, to 11,053, while the Dow Jones index dropped 0.2 per cent, to 30,483.
The three major US indexes spent much of their day in positive territory, before they slipped in the final trading hour.
In company news, Moderna shares rose 4.7 per cent, after the company said an updated version of its COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response against fast-spreading Omicron sub-variants.
Recession fears sink oil prices
Oil prices tumbled as investors worried that aggressive rate hikes by the US Fed and other central banks could push the global economy into recession, dampening demand for fuel.
Brent crude futures plunged by 4.3 per cent, to $US109.74 a barrel, its lowest level in a month.
Spot gold rose 0.3 per cent, to $US1,837.53 an ounce.
“Gold edged higher as safe haven buying increased amid recessionary fears,” ANZ economists Daniel Hynes and Brian Martin wrote in a research note.
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