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Asia-Pacific Markets Trade Mixed as Investors Weigh Risks of More Hikes Ahead

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

This is CNBC's live blog covering Asia-Pacific markets.

Stocks in the Asia-Pacific traded mixed on Thursday, as investors assessed further risks of more rate hikes to come. A number of Federal Reserve speakers reiterated the central bank is yet to be finished with its hiking cycle, including Fed Governor Christopher Waller.

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The S&P/ASX 200 ended the session 0.53% lower at 7,490.3, as shares of Australia's top power producer AGL Energy fell after posting a half-year loss in its latest periodic earnings.

Markets in Northeast Asia were more mixed, as Japan's Nikkei 225 fell fractionally to 27,584.35 and the Topix climbed marginally to 1,985. In South Korea, the Kospi also ended fractionally lower at 2481.52, and the Kosdaq gained 0.59% to finish at 784.58.

Crude oil saw its fourth consecutive day of gains on China's reopening hopes. The U.S. dollar index maintained levels above 103, with bond yields hovering at its highest levels in a month.

Chinese markets were all trading higher on Thursday, as Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 1.58% and the Hang Seng Tech index climbed 3.18% in its final hour of trade.

In mainland China, the Shenzhen Component climbed 1.64% higher to close at 12,048.27, while the Shanghai Composite rose 1.18% to finish Thursday at 3270.38.

Overnight on Wall Street, all three indexes fell on corporate profit worries — including Chipotle and Lumen Technologies' disappointing results. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.61% the S&P 500 slid 1.11% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.68%.

Toyota shares inch up after earnings surprise

Shares of Japanese automaker Toyota reversed out of the red on Thursday after the company posted a 22% jump in operating profit for the October-December period of 2022 compared to the same period a year ago.

Meanwhile, for the three-month period ending in December 2022, the company's net profit dropped to 745 million yen ($5.7 million) from the 819 million yen seen in the same period the previous year.

Tokyo-listed shares of Toyota traded 0.4% higher after the release, erasing earlier losses in the morning session.

The company said a weaker local currency and higher volume of sales offset soaring prices of materials.

Toyota kept its 2023's full-year operating profit forecast of 2.4 trillion yen ($18.2 billion) unchanged from its previous forecast, although it trimmed its annual production target from 9.2 million vehicles to around 9.1 million vehicles.

— Lim Hui Jie

Hong Kong-listed Casinos rise on overnight earnings results

Hong Kong-listed shares of casinos rose after Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts released its latest earnings reports overnight.

Wynn Macau rose 4.69% in Hong Kong's morning session. MGM China rose 3.88%, Sands China rose 2.5%, Galaxy Entertainment rose 1.33% and SJM Holdings rose 2.42%.

Wynn Resorts reported $1 billion in revenue for the latest quarter, higher than compared to analysts' expectations of $958 million, according to Refinitiv. MGM also beat estimates on its quarterly revenue, posting $3.59 billion compared to the $3.35 billion expected by Wall Street.

– Jihye Lee, Tanaya Macheel

Japanese consortium makes final offer on Toshiba buyout

A consortium led by investment fund Japan Industrial Partners have submitted a final acquisition bid to troubled Japanese conglomerate Toshiba after securing loans and capital worth about 1.4 trillion yen (US$10.6 billion) from major Japanese banks.

Under JIP's offer, a total of about 20 Japanese companies, including Orix, Rohm and Chubu Electric Power, will also jointly invest around 1 trillion yen.

Nikkei reported that JIP expects to spend about 2 trillion yen on the acquisition, excluding Toshiba's post-acquisition working capital. 

Shares of Toshiba fell 1% on Thursday morning.

— Lim Hui Jie

India may extend wheat export ban to bring down domestic prices: Reuters

India may extend its wheat export ban as it seeks to replenish state reserves and bring down domestic prices, Reuters reported, citing government sources.

The country imposed the ban in May 2022 in response to a heatwave which curtailed output and sent local prices soaring.

Reuters added that the current ban was scheduled to be reviewed in April, and top government officials from are likely to make a decision on an extension by the end of March or early April.

However, government and industry sources added they don't expect wheat exports to resume until mid-2024.

Wheat futures were trading at 0.2% lower on Thursday morning.

—Lim Hui Jie

Hyundai in talks with U.S. government on alleged child labor use: Reuters

South Korean auto company Hyundai Motors is in discussions with the U.S. labor department over allegations of using child labor in its U.S. supply chain, Reuters reported, citing a statement from the company.

The company told Reuters that it has been investigating a subsidiary in Alabama and other suppliers and its sister brand Kia Corp for potential child labor violations.

Shares of Hyundai fell fractionally in Seoul's morning trade.

– Jihye Lee

AGL Energy falls over 10% after 55% drop in net profit

Shares of Australian energy company AGL Energy fell more than 10% on Thursday morning after the company reported a 55% drop in its underlying net profit after tax for the June-December period of 2022 compared to the same period a year ago.

AGL's CEO and managing director Damien Nicks said in the company's earnings report that the "challenged" first half performance was driven by the impact of plant outages during "unprecedented energy market conditions" in July.

The company also cut its underlying earnings guidance range from 200 million - 300 million Australian dollars ($139 million to $208 million) – to a range of 200 million - 280 million Australian dollars.

— Lim Hui Jie

Fed Governor Waller on interest rate hikes: 'We have farther to go'

Fed Governor Christopher Waller on Wednesday talked tough on inflation, warning that the fight is not over and could result in higher interest rates than markets are anticipating.

Speaking to an agribusiness conference in Arkansas, Waller said the January jobs report, showing nonfarm payroll growth of 517,000, indicated that the employment market is "robust" and could fuel consumer spending that would maintain upward pressure on inflation.

Consequently, he said the Fed needs to maintain its current plan of action, which has seen eight interest rate hikes since March 2022.

"We are seeing that effort begin to pay off, but we have farther to go," Waller told the Arkansas State University Agribusiness Conference in prepared remarks. "And, it might be a long fight, with interest rates higher for longer than some are currently expecting. But I will not hesitate to do what is needed to get my job done."

The comments come a week after the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee approved a quarter percentage point increase that took the benchmark borrowing rate to a target range of 4.5%-4.7%, the highest since October 2007.

— Jeff Cox

CNBC Pro: Will the stock market rally last? Analysts share their predictions — and strategies

The tide seems to have turned since 2022 — markets have been rallying since the start of the year. But investors are wondering how long that will last.

But is this just a bear market rally or the start of a bull market?

Here's what the pros have to say.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Wholesale inventories for December up 0.1%

U.S. wholesale inventories for December rose by just 0.1% from the revised November level, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. That's the lowest month-over-month change since July 2020.

Total adjusted inventories of merchant wholesalers, except sales branches and offices, came in at $932.9 billion, up 17.6% from December 2021.

December's data also came in line with the consensus estimate of economists polled by Dow Jones.

— Michelle Fox

CNBC Pro: Will the stock market rally last? Analysts share their predictions — and strategies

The tide seems to have turned since 2022 — markets have been rallying since the start of the year. But investors are wondering how long that will last.

But is this just a bear market rally or the start of a bull market?

Here's what the pros have to say.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Fed's Williams says looser financial conditions could imply higher interest rates

If financial conditions continue to loosen, the Federal Reserve could be forced to push interest rates higher than expected, New York Fed President John Williams said Wednesday.

By the Chicago Fed's measure, conditions are at their loosest since April 2022. That has come despite eight interest rate hikes from the central bank in its attempt to rein in inflation.

"If financial conditions ... loosened a lot or got much more supportive of growth, that would be a factor that would have to influence our thinking about the future path of the economy and what we need to do in terms of monetary policy in order to achieve our goal," Williams said during a Wall Street Journal roundtable.

Looser conditions "might might imply a higher interest rate to make sure that we're getting to the goals that we're trying to achieve," he added.

As things stand, he said projections in December of a fed funds rate in the 5%-5.5% range are probably accurate, implying increases of another 0.5 percentage point or so from the current level.

—Jeff Cox

CNBC Pro: Emerging markets are getting attention. Morgan Stanley names the 'highest quality' stocks to play it

Emerging markets could be a big winner for investors this year, according to Wall Street analysts. CNBC Pro takes a look at eight of Morgan Stanley's top picks.

Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Zavier Ong

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