Asian shares were mostly higher on Thursday after the Federal Reserve signaled it may begin easing its extraordinary support measures for the economy later this year.
The U.S. central bank indicated it may start raising its benchmark interest rate sometime next year, earlier than it envisioned three months ago. It also said it will likely begin slowing the pace of its monthly bond purchases “soon” if the economy keeps improving. The Fed's been buying the bonds throughout the pandemic to help keep long-term interest rates low.
Markets also were reassured after Evergrande, one of China’s biggest private real estate developers, said it will make a payment due Thursday. That likely eased some concerns about heavily indebted Chinese real estate developers and potential ripple effects of possible defaults.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 2% to 24,745.96. The Shanghai Composite index added 0.6% to 3,651.27. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 surged 1% to 7,368.40. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.7% to 3,117.99.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 1%, breaking a four-day losing streak. The benchmark index initially climbed 1.4% after the Fed issued its statement at 2 p.m. Eastern.
The other major indexes also received a bump, but shed some of their gains by late afternoon. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1% to 34,258.32. The blue-chip index briefly surged 520 points higher. The Nasdaq composite gained 1% to 14,896.85.
Bond yields mostly rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note wobbled up and down after the Fed’s announcement, but was holding steady at 1.31%.. The yield influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans.
The Fed’s policy update was in line with what the market was expecting, analysts said. The VIX, a measure of how much volatility investors expect for the S&P 500, sank about 14% after the Fed statement.
“This was so well telegraphed that it didn’t take anybody by surprise,” said Brian Jacobsen, senior investment strategist at Wells Fargo Asset Management.
At a news conference, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the Fed plans to announce as early as November that it will start to taper its monthly bond purchases, should the job market maintain its steady improvement.
The Fed’s shift revealed that inflation is starting to be a concern, said Gene Goldman, chief investment officer at Cetera Financial Group.
“Our concern is that the Fed keeps sticking to its view that this is a transitory phase, but we aren’t seeing evidence that this is transitory,” he said.
Goldman added that the broader market could be in for a correction as economic growth slows and rising inflation persists. “Our concerns about the overall economy and market is that number one, we’re at peak everything,” he said.
September has been a rough month for stocks. The S&P 500 is down 2.8%.
Aside from worries over possible Fed policy shifts, investors are jittery over rising cases of COVID-19 due to the highly contagious delta variant and the impact of rising inflation on companies and consumers.
History doesn’t offer a great guide for how markets will react to the Fed’s easing its support for the economy, mostly because it’s been such a rare occurrence.
In the summer of 2013 Treasury yields jumped sharply after the Fed’s chair hinted it may begin slowing its bond-buying program. Surprised investors assumed rate increases would also quickly follow and drove the yield on the 10-year Treasury up to 3% from less than 2.20% within three months.
But after the Fed announced in December that it would taper its purchases, the 10-year yield made a U-turn, falling even though the Fed was reducing its support for a program meant to keep rates low.
Despite the bond market turmoil, stock prices remained relatively steady.
This time, the 10-year yield has been relatively steady between 1.20% and 1.30% since July, after falling from 1.70% in March. Powell has repeatedly stressed how gradual the Fed will be in moving from tapering its bond purchases to raising interest rates.
More than 80% of stocks in the S&P 500 index rose Wednesday, mostly driven by technology stocks, banks and companies that rely on direct consumer spending. Energy stocks posted solid gains as the price of U.S. crude oil rose 2.4%. Communication and utilities stocks fell.
Smaller stocks did better than the broader market. The Russell 2000 index rose 1.5%, to 2,218.56.
Netflix climbed 3.1% after the streaming entertainment service acquired the works of Roald Dahl, the late British author of celebrated children’s books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Facebook fell 4% after the social network told advertisers in a blog post that it has been underreporting web conversions by Apple mobile device users by roughly 15% following changes to Apple's operating system.
FedEx slumped 9.1%, the biggest decline among S&P 500 stocks, after it reported sharply higher costs even as demand for shipping increased. Many industries are contending with higher costs because of a mix of labor and supply chain problems.
In other trading Thursday, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 7 cents to $72.16 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained $1.74 to $72.23 per barrel on Wednesday.
Brent crude, the international standard, shed 8 cents to $75.31 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 109.86 Japanese yen from 109.76 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1688 from $1.1691.
AP Business Writers Alex Veiga, Stan Choe and Damian J. Troise contributed.