Asia stock markets slide on interest rate concerns

A woman stands in front of a stock quotation board in Tokyo.

Shares in Asia have fallen after the head of the US central bank said it would continue to raise interest rates to tackle soaring prices.

Jerome Powell warned that the Federal Reserve’s policies will cause “some pain to households and businesses”.

Higher interest rates make borrowing more expensive for individuals and companies, which could slow economic growth as well as inflation.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was 2.8% lower in Monday morning trade in Tokyo.

Elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, the Kospi in South Korea and Australia’s ASX 200 were both down by more than 2%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong was 0.8% lower.

That came after the main share indexes in New York each fell by more than 3% on Friday after Mr Powell’s remarks.

During a highly-anticipated speech at a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Mr Powell said the Federal Reserve was likely to continue raising interest rates in the coming months and could keep them high “for some time”.

He said that, while the hikes would come at a cost to American households and businesses, “a failure to restore price stability would mean far greater pain”.

Inflation in the world’s largest economy by gross domestic product (GDP) is at a four-decade high.

“Fed Chair Powell went for the jugular, conveying (an) unflinching assault on inflation,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, said in a note.

“Justification for this unrelentingly hawkish posture was as plain as it was unequivocal,” he added.

China’s central bank cut its lending rates earlier this month after economic growth slowed sharply in the second quarter of this year. Power shortages in the Sichuan province have also hit major manufacturers of cars and smartphones in China.

Over the weekend, official data showed that profits of China industrial firms had fallen by 1.1% from January to July, from a year earlier. A crisis in the country’s property market is also proving to be a major challenge to government efforts to keep the economy growing.

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