Asian stock markets fell Friday, deflated after US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no hint of immediate action to jump-start growth in the world’s No. 1 economy.
Bernanke avoided sending any signals Thursday in an appearance before members of the US Congress about what the Fed might do in response to a slowdown in hiring. Just 69,000 jobs were created in May, the fewest in a year.
Bernanke didn’t pledge any new Fed measures, but he didn’t rule out future actions. He said Fed officials would closely examine the latest economic developments when they next meet on June 19-20.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 2 percent to 8,471.04. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.8 percent to 18,523.51 and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.6 percent to 1,837.19. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.1 percent to 4,062.90.
Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand also fell. Mainland Chinese shares wavered.
An effort by China on Thursday to reverse a sharp economic downturn by cutting benchmark lending rates failed to rejuvenate markets.
The interest rate on a one-year loan will be cut by a quarter percentage point to 6.31 percent effective Friday, the Chinese central bank announced. While the rate cut was small, it was the first since November 2008 — and it served as a signal to banks, companies and consumers that Beijing approves of more borrowing.
China has rolled out a series of measures to stimulate the economy after growth fell to a nearly three-year low of 8.1 percent in the first quarter and April factory output grew at its slowest rate since the 2008 crisis. Private sector analysts expect this quarter’s growth to fall further.
Monthly data due to be reported this weekend are expected to show a further deceleration in industrial activity.
Andrew Sullivan of Piper Jaffray Asia in Hong Kong said in an e-mail commentary that the rate cut had “limited impact after Bernanke comments” and that investor concerns remained focused on Europe, where a lingering financial crisis has now infected Spain and its deeply troubled banks.
Global investors are worried that the recession-hit country can’t come up with the money needed to save its banks without bankrupting the government. Expectations are rising that Spain’s leaders will have to seek an international bailout for banks crumbling under the weight of bad real estate loans.
Spain’s borrowing costs have soared close to the level that forced the governments of Greece, Portugal and Ireland to seek financial rescues. As much as 100 billion euros ($126 billion) may be needed to bolster Spanish banks, the credit rating agency Fitch said Thursday.
On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent to 12,460.96. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell marginally to 1,314.99. The Nasdaq composite index 0.5 percent to 2,831.02.
Benchmark oil for July delivery fell $2.02 to $82.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 20 cents to finish at $84.82 per barrel in New York.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2525 from $1.2601 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.41 yen from 79.68 yen.