Stock market today: Asian shares mostly fall after Wall Street drop

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TOKYO — Asian shares were trading mostly lower on Wednesday after a decline overnight on Wall Street, while Tokyo’s main benchmark momentarily hit another 30-year high.

U.S. shares were set to drift lower with Dow futures down 0.3% at 37,429.00. S&P 500 futures fell 0.5% to 4,775.25.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost earlier gains on profit-taking and finished down 0.4% at 35,477.75. The Nikkei earlier in the day hit a new 34-year high, or the best since February 1990 during the so-called financial “bubble.” Buying had focused on semiconductor-related shares, and a cheap yen helped boost some exporter issues.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3% to 7,393.10. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 2.3% to 2,439.93. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dove 3.8% to 15,267.70. The Shanghai Composite shed 1.5% to 2,851.78.

Official Chinese data released Wednesday showed that the Chinese economy grew 5.2% for 2023, surpassing the target of “about 5%” that the government had set. That growth was likely helped by 2022’s GDP of just 3% as China’s economy slowed due to COVID-19 and nationwide lockdowns during the pandemic.

“Investors’ expectations for China’s economic growth have declined,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management. “The headwinds facing China’s economy in 2023 have not subsided, and the geopolitical environment may become more contentious.”

Investors were keeping their eyes on upcoming earnings reports, as well as potential moves by the world’s central banks, to gauge their next moves.

Companies across the S&P 500 are likely to report meager growth in profits for the fourth quarter from a year earlier, if any, if Wall Street analysts’ forecasts are to be believed. Earnings have been under pressure for more than a year because of rising costs amid high inflation.

But optimism is higher for 2024, where analysts are forecasting a strong 11.8% growth in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies, according to FactSet. That, plus expectations for several cuts to interest rates by the Federal Reserve this year, have helped the S&P 500 rally to 10 winning weeks in the last 11. The index remains within 0.6% of its all-time high set two years ago

For now, traders are penciling in many more cuts to rates through 2024 than the Fed itself has indicated. That raises the potential for big market swings around each speech by a Fed official or economic report.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 56 cents to $71.84 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 51 cents to $77.78 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 147.86 Japanese yen from 147.09 yen. The euro cost $1.0859, down from $1.0880.

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AP Business Writer Stan Choe in New York contributed to this report.

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on X: https://twitter.com/yurikageyama

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