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Asian stocks tumble on global anxieties over inflation

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Hong Kong - Asian stocks fell Monday as investors remained anxious over inflation and the ongoing impact of China's Covid lockdown policies, despite an initial Wall Street bounce thanks to a solid US jobs report. Global markets have taken a beating over a series of crises including surging inflation, rising interest rates, China's economic slowdown and the war in Ukraine.

Wall Street on Friday saw a brief lift in equities after the US Labor Department reported that the world's largest economy added a better-than-expected 428,000 jobs in April, with the unemployment rate remaining at a low 3.6 percent.

But it still finished lower, with the S&P 500 dropping 0.6 percent, while the other two US indices also dipped at the close of Friday -- with the Nasdaq suffering the most at 1.5 percent. The losses globally capped a volatile week, though markets were briefly lifted due to temporary relief after the Federal Reserve hiked borrowing costs 50 basis points -- the most since 2000. Any short-term outlook is bound to be "messy", said Diana Mousina, a senior economist at AMP Investments.

"There may be more downside as markets worry about a significant economic slowdown or 'hard landing' and aggressive interest-rate hikes," she wrote in a note according to Bloomberg. The United States' fierce monetary tightening -- combined with the news of more restrictions in China -- has continued to send traders running for the hills. Lockdowns across dozens of Chinese cities -- from the manufacturing hubs of Shenzhen and Shanghai to the breadbasket of Jilin -- have wreaked havoc on supply chains over recent months, crushing small businesses and trapping consumers at home.

Equities fell in Australia, Singapore, Seoul, and Tokyo on Monday, while China's two mainland indices -- Shanghai and Shenzhen -- were also lower. Hong Kong's stock exchange was closed for a public holiday. "Given the unsettled backdrop of the Ukraine War and China's economic woes, it is challenging for the Fed to aggressively raise interest rates without dropping the US economy into a sinkhole," said Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management.

"Questioning the ability of central banks to lean against inflation effectively remains a significant source of angst... The longer this goes on, it will drive even higher investor anxiety levels and pressure stocks lower." Crude prices rebounded Friday after key producers led by Saudi Arabia and Russia refused to lift output more than their planned marginal increase as they weighed tight supply concerns caused by Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. But by Monday, it had lowered slightly -- likely due to "broader market anxieties suggesting recessionary concerns", Innes said

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