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Asian shares track Wall St decline; bitcoin sinks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares fell Wednesday, tracking a decline on Wall Street that was led by big technology stocks. The price of bitcoin plunged again after the China Banking Association warned of risks associated with digital currencies.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 fell 1.6% in afternoon trading to 27,964.19. Australia’s Sandamp;P/ASX 200 slipped 1.9% to 6,931.70. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.6% to 3,506.37. Markets were closed in Hong Kong and South Korea.

A day after Japan reported its economy contracted at a 5.1% annual rate in the first quarter of this year, Fitch Solutions forecast the economy will grow just 2.5% this year, highlighting the challenge as the country battles surging coronavirus infections.

“The slow vaccination roll-out in the country means that the country continues to face risks from sporadic movement restrictions and other tightening measures that will disrupt a healthy recovery in activity,” the report said.

The Tokyo Olympics, due to start in late July, will be held in such a reduced capacity, “the positive economic gains from the event will likely be negligible,” it said.

Bitcoin’s price fell more than 9% to about $39,000 after the China Banking Association warned members of risks associated with digital currencies.

A statement posted on the industry association’s website said all members should “resolutely refrain from conducting or participating in any business activities related to virtual currencies.”

The notice said such digital currencies were subject to great volatility.

Bitcoin was trading above $50,105.00 last week after its price plunged 10% following Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s reversal of his stance on the digital currency when he said the electric car maker would no longer accept it as payment.

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On Tuesday, Stocks closed lower on Wall Street as a late-afternoon sell-off in technology companies helped nudge stock indexes into the red for a second straight day.

The Sandamp;P 500 lost 0.9% to 4,127.83, with most of the pullback coming in the last hour of trading. Apple, Facebook and Google’s parent company all lost 1% or more as technology stocks fell broadly. While they powered the market rebound last year, tech stocks are up only 2.6% this year, the lowest gain among the Sandamp;P 500′s 11 sectors.

Banks, industrial and communication companies also helped drag the market lower, easily outweighing small gains by health care stocks, among others. Investors continued to size up the latest batch of company earnings reports, including quarterly snapshots from Walmart and Home Depot.

“Stocks appear to be in consolidation mode, digesting strong year-to-date gains on the heels of a superb first-quarter reporting period,” said Terry Sandven, chief equity strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

“We view this pullback that we’re experiencing over the last week or so as within the normal ebb and flow of a broad market that still has legs to trend higher.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8% to 34,060.66. The tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 0.6% to 13,303.64. The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks gave up 0.7% to 2,210.88.

The broader market made solid gains early in the year as investors bet on an economic recovery fueled by widespread vaccinations. Expectations were high for corporate earnings and the latest round of results has been surprisingly good. Wall Street is now digesting that growth and shifting to a more cautious view.

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“Some sort of pause was always inevitable,” said Ross Mayfield, investment strategist at Baird. “Eventually markets see a more challenging landscape ahead and general uncertainty.”

A big question is whether rising inflation will be temporary or whether it will endure. Prices are rising for everything from gasoline to food as the economy recovers from its more than year-long malaise.

The fear is that the Federal Reserve will have to dial back its extensive support if inflation persists. That includes record-low interest rates and the monthly purchase of $120 billion in bonds meant to goose the job market and economy. For all the worries about inflation, however, many professional investors are echoing the Federal Reserve in saying that they expect rising prices to be “transitory.”

Higher interest rates drag on most of the stock market, but they are particularly painful for stocks, especially technology shares, considered the most expensive and those bid up for profits expected far into the future.

Retailers are among the last companies due to report first-quarter results, with several of them set to do so this week, including Target and Lowe’s.

On Tuesday, Walmart rose 2.2% after the giant retailer’s results beat estimates as online shopping surged from a year earlier.

ATandamp;T fell 5.8% for the biggest decline in the Sandamp;P 500 and continued a two-day slide after the company announced it would spin off its Warner media assets into a new company with Discovery Communications.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude fell 65 cents to $64.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 78 cents to $65.49 on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 66 cents to $68.05 a barrel.

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In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 108.93 Japanese yen from 108.89 yen. The euro rose to $1.2240 from $1.2226.

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Source: AP News

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