Stock markets slide over global economy concerns

Woman looking at phone in front stock market graphics.

Asian stock markets have fallen sharply as soaring prices in America triggered fears the Federal Reserve will take tougher action to rein in inflation.

At the same time the US dollar strengthened to 135 Japanese yen for the first time in over two decades.

It comes as official figures showed on Friday that US inflation hit a more than 40-year high last month.

A warning about Covid-19 infections in Beijing also added to investor concerns about global economic growth.

On Monday, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei index was 2.7% lower, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was down by 2.7%.

The Australian stock market was closed for the Queen’s birthday public holiday.

Global oil prices have also slipped with Brent crude falling by around $1.70 to just over $120 per barrel.

On Friday, official data showed that prices in the US increased faster than expected last month, as rising energy and food costs pushed inflation to the highest level since 1981.

The annual inflation rate rose to 8.6% in May, the Labor Department said, after easing in April.

That confounded hopes that inflation had peaked, and instead put investors on alert that the Federal Reserve may take an more robust action to tackle the issue.

The central bank is due to make its next policy announcement on Wednesday.

Markets currently see an 80% chance that it will raise its main interest rate half a percentage point.

Last month, the Federal Reserve announced its biggest interest rate increase in more than two decades.

The central bank said it was lifting its benchmark interest rate by half a percentage point, to a range of 0.75% to 1% after a smaller rise in March.

The moves came as the rising cost of living has been squeezing households and putting pressure on policymakers to bring the issue under control.

A major issue in the US is the rising cost of fuel as the price of petrol averaged more than $5 a gallon for the first time on Saturday, according to the American Automobile Association.

However, investors are worried that the Fed and other major central banks may take aggressive action to contain rising prices including raising interest rates too high and too fast – and cause a sharp economic slowdown.

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