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Asian markets were mixed as investors digested a US labour report showing a drop in job openings to their lowest level in almost two years in February. New Zealand’s central bank increased its benchmark cash rate by 50 basis points to 5.25%, causing the New Zealand dollar to strengthen by almost 0.9%. Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei 225 led losses in the region, closing 1.68% down at 27,813.26, and the Topix lost 1.92%. However, South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.59%, while the Kosdaq index also gained 1.77%. The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia climbed marginally. Singapore’s Straits Times Index was 0.12% higher as investors further digested its retail sales for February. The Chinese and Hong Kong markets were closed for a holiday.
Traders evaluated the effect of a surge in oil prices on the global economy, resulting in a drop of nearly 200 points in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Both the Dow and S&P 500 snapped a four-day winning streak, declining by 0.59% and 0.58% respectively. The Nasdaq Composite also slipped by 0.52%. The market losses followed the latest job openings report, which showed a drop in available positions below 10 million for the first time in nearly two years. However, the markets have been resilient despite inflation, a banking crisis, and higher rates. OPEC+ announced a cut in output by 1.16 million barrels per day, leading to West Texas Intermediate futures having their most significant daily increase in almost a year and adding to uncertainty in the energy market. As the world shifts towards clean and sustainable energy, OPEC+ is preparing for the future by investing in infrastructure and shifting away from crude oil as their primary source of income.
Despite a slight increase, gold held above the $2,000 an ounce mark as traders evaluated the US Federal Reserve’s interest-rate policy amid weaker-than-expected US economic data. US service sector growth slowed in March, with softer new orders and business activity growth. Additionally, wage growth slowed, and fewer jobs were added than expected, raising concerns about cooling labour demand, causing the dollar and Treasuries to rise as recession fears resurfaced. However, gold continues to be sought after by investors looking for safe havens amid high inflation, a weak labour market, and fragile credit. Analysts at UBS Group predict gold breaking its previous record to test $2,200 an ounce by early 2024. Gold’s spot price rose 0.1% to $2,021.98 an ounce in New York.
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