STOCKS were mostly lower in Asia on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 after Wall Street pulled back as surprisingly strong economic reports highlighted the difficulty of the Federal Reserve’s fight against inflation.

Tokyo rose while other regional markets declined. US futures gained and oil prices also advanced.

Adding to worries over the potential for recession, Fitch Ratings revised its forecasts for world economic growth downward on Tuesday to reflect the Fed and other central banks’ interest rate hikes.

Its Global Economic Outlook report estimated global growth at 1.4 percent in 2023, revised down from 1.7 percent in its September forecast. It put US growth in 2023 at 0.2 percent, down from 0.5 percent, as the pace of monetary policy tightening increases.

China’s growth forecast was cut to a 4.1 percent annual pace from 4.5 percent.

Markets have been lifted by expectations China will press ahead with easing its stringent pandemic restrictions, relieving pressures on trade, manufacturing and consumer spending.

But investors are also eyeing the Fed, hoping it might slow the pace of interest rate hikes aimed at curbing stubbornly high inflation.

The services sector, which makes up the biggest part of the US economy, showed surprising growth in November, the Institute for Supply Management reported Monday.

Business orders at US factories and orders for durable goods in October also rose more than expected, other reports said.

That news is positive for the broader economy, but it complicates the Fed’s fight against inflation because it likely means the central bank will have to keep raising interest rates to bring down price pressures.

“Inflation will likely prove to be stickier and with the service part of the economy refusing to weaken. The risks that the Fed might need to do more remain elevated,” Edward Moya of Oanda said in a statement.

Meeting next week

The Fed is meeting next week and is expected to raise interest rates by a half-percentage point, which would mark an easing of sorts from a steady stream of three-quarters of a percentage point rate increases. It has raised its benchmark rate six times since March, driving it to a range of 3.75 percent to four percent, the highest in 15 years. Wall Street expects the benchmark rate to reach a peak range of five percent to 5.25 percent by the middle of 2023.

The aim is to cool growth without slamming on the brakes and causing a recession that would cascade through the global economy, slowing trade and consumer spending .

Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine continues agitating an already volatile global energy market. US crude oil prices bounced around before settling 3.8 percent lower after a group of world leaders agreed to a boycott of most Russian oil. They also committed to a price cap of $60 per barrel on Russian exports.

In Asian trading, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.1 percent to 19,300.90 and the Kospi in South Korea fell 0.6 percent to 2,404.39. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1 percent lower to 3,209.27.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index picked up 0.3 percent to 27,909.65. Shares also fell in Bangkok and Thailand. (AP)