Global shares mixed in choppy trading amid inflation worries

TOKYO (AP): Global shares were mixed in choppy trading Thursday, as inflation worries and the war in Ukraine had investors partly optimistic while remaining cautious.

European shares were mostly higher in early trading. Benchmarks finished higher in Japan, South Korea and Australia, but declined in China. Investors were watching South Korean trade numbers for April, which showed a trade deficit, although both imports and exports rose.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at a forum of Asian leaders, said his government supports talks to resolve international disputes and opposes the use of sanctions. Xi’s comments were China’s latest on the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Beijing has backed Moscow, refusing to call the conflict an invasion and saying Russia was provoked by NATO’s expansion. What central banks may indicate on interest rates and inflation was also of concern, analysts said.

“Market focus will remain on inflation and the Ukraine-Russia situation ” ahead of a Thursday IMF panel discussion with U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, said Lavanya Venkateswaran of Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

France’s CAC 40 gained 1.5% in early trading to 6,727.22, while Germany’s DAX added 1.1% to 14,516.80. Britain’s FTSE 100 inched down less than 0.1% to 7,625.70. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with Dow futures adding 0.6% to 35,288.00. S&P 500 futures added 0.8% to 4,490.50.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.2% to finish at 27,553.06. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.3% to 7,592.80. South Korea’s Kospi surged 0.4% to 2,728.21. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.3% to 20,682.22, while the Shanghai Composite fell 2.3% to 3,079.81.

Investors continue focusing on the latest round of corporate earnings as they try to determine how companies are dealing with rising inflation and cost pressures. Inflation has been pressuring a wide range of industries and increasingly squeezing consumers.

New Zealand’s inflation rate hit a 30-year high of 6.9%, driven by housing and gas. Statistics New Zealand reported that the cost of building new homes was up 18% compared to a year ago, while gas prices were up 32%. The annual increase in prices was the highest since 1990, the agency said. Inflation has been rising in developed nations, including in the U.S., where it hit a four-decade high of 8.5% in March.

Rising prices have prompted the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks to raise interest rates to temper inflation’s impact. The Fed has already announced a quarter-percentage point rate hike and Wall Street expects a half-percentage rate hike at its next meeting in two weeks.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude added 19 cents to $102.75 a barrel. It rose 0.2% Wednesday and is now up nearly 40% for the year and pushing gasoline prices higher. Brent crude, the international standard, jumped $1.87 to $108.67 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 128.11 Japanese yen from 127.93 yen. The euro cost $1.0925, up from $1.0853.