April 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Asian stocks plunge after Wall Street fall on rate hike

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BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets plunged Thursday, following Wall Street down after the Federal Reserve raised U.S. interest rates.

KEEPING SCORE: Tokyo‘s Nikkei 225 index plummeted 3.2 percent to 20,312.96 and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1 percent to 2,523.40. Hong Kong‘s Hang Seng lost 1.7 percent to 25,430.40 and Seoul‘s Kospi shed 1.3 percent to 2,051.23. Sydney‘s S&P-ASX 200 retreated 1.3 percent to 5,508.10 and India‘s Sensex gave up 0.7 percent to 36,324.37. New Zealand and Malaysia gained while Taiwan and other Southeast Asian markets retreated.

FED WATCH: The Fed raised its key interest rate for a fourth time this year to reflect U.S. economic strength and said it plans more increases next year. That lifted the Fed‘s benchmark rate to its highest level since the 2008 global financial crisis. The Fed said it expects two rate increases next year instead of three. Investors were disappointed Chairman Jerome Powell failed to go further in indicating a slowdown in the pace of increases.

WALL STREET: Stocks gave up a rally and plunged, sending the market to its lowest level since September 2017. The Dow Jones Industrial Average swung from a gain to close down 1.5 percent at 23,323.66. The Standard & Poor‘s 500 skidded 1.5 percent to 2,506.96. It has lost 9.2 percent this month. The Nasdaq composite gave up 2.2 percent to 6,636.83.

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ANALYST‘S TAKE: With headwinds to growth and inflation stabilizing, “the Fed can afford to slow down from here,” said Shane Oliver of AMP Capital in a report. “A more cautious Fed should provide some support for markets although more falls are possible into early next year before markets bottom and head higher as investors realize the US/global economy is not going into recession soon.”

CHINA LENDING: Beijing unexpectedly announced a 100 billion yuan ($15 billion) lending program to support entrepreneurs. Financial analysts said the “targeted easing” appears to be aimed at shoring up economic growth without reigniting a rise in national debt levels.

JAPAN INTEREST RATES: Japan‘s central bank, as was widely expected, left its short-term policy rate unchanged at a negative 0.1 percent and its 10-year bond yield target at 0 percent. The bank‘s economic outlook was optimistic but said it would keep rates “extremely low” for an extended period.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude lost $1.07 to $47.10 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped $1.57 on Wednesday to close at $48.17. Brent crude, used to price international oils, retreated $1.04 to $56.20 per barrel in London. It gained 98 cents the previous session to close at $57.24.

CURRENCY: The dollar eased to 112.41 yen from Wednesday‘s 112.44 yen. The euro gained to $1.1381 from $1.1375.