Asian stock markets fell on 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. The 69,000 jobs created in May was 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.
Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong said markets were “slightly disappointed” that Bernanke had not said the Fed would extend its Treasury bond-buying program, known as quantitative easing. The program injects money into the financial system, lowering interest rates to spur lending and growth.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 2 percent to 8,471.04. 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. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.4 percent to 18,604.18.
Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand also fell. Mainland Chinese shares moved higher by midday.
An effort by China on Thursday to reverse a sharp economic downturn by a surprise cut to the benchmark lending rates failed to rejuvenate markets because it may have been too little, Lun said.
“The economy is slowing much faster than people expected,” he said.
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.