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Tesla leads Wall Street lower in downbeat start to 2023


US stocks started 2023 on a downbeat note as shares in electric carmaker Tesla continued falling, drawing a contrast to the more optimistic new year’s performance across the Atlantic.

Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 0.7 per cent and 1.2 per cent respectively. Tesla’s shares dropped more than 13 per cent, bringing their decline since mid-September to about 65 per cent, after new-vehicle deliveries fell short of analysts’ expectations in the fourth quarter. The group was the worst-performing member of the S&P 500 on Tuesday, the first US trading day of the new year.

Apple’s shares meanwhile fell 3.8 per cent on the day amid concerns of slowing demand for its gadgets, taking the company’s market capitalisation below $2tn. Its shares are down 28 per cent since mid-August.

In contrast, the regional Stoxx Europe 600 gained 1.2 per cent, extending gains from an upbeat start to 2023 the previous day. London’s FTSE 100, which was closed on Monday, kicked off the year by rallying 1.4 per cent.

Line chart of The Stoxx 600 index is up 2 per cent this week showing European stocks begin 2023 with a bang

The moves came in a trading session during which fresh data showed German inflation slowed more than expected in December, with consumer prices increasing 9.6 per cent on the year, from 11.3 per cent in November. A survey by Reuters showed economists had expected a reading of 10.7 per cent.

“This is a big downside surprise,” said Claus Vistesen, chief European economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. If such declines continue, that could take the pressure off the European Central Bank to keep cranking up interest rates. But Vistesen urged caution. “The fall adds to the evidence that inflation is now past its peak. But to the extent that this is driven partially by fiscal measures, amid rising core inflation, we can’t see how it provides much relief for the ECB.”

Still, the brighter tone in European stocks formed a contrast with a dismal December, which is typically an upbeat month in global markets. In the US, the benchmark S&P 500 index fell close to 6 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite lost 8.7 per cent as officials at the Federal Reserve stressed that interest rates were unlikely to fall in 2023 despite slowing inflation. Overall, global stocks and bonds shed more than $30tn in the worst year for markets since the 2008 financial crisis.

On Tuesday, though, and outside of the US, it was “a case of new year, new optimism, even if there’s nothing specific [investors] are going off”, said Neil Birrell, chief investment officer at Premier Miton.

“A big, big focus for people over the next few months is surety of returns — in equities that means things less sensitive to the economic cycle, or things looking cheap,” Birrell added. “The UK is a good example [of the latter].”

A eurozone inflation report due later in the week, along with a batch of US economic data, could help provide further clues on the direction of monetary policy in the two regions, investors said.

In currency markets, the dollar gained 0.9 per cent against a basket of six other currencies, though it has fallen almost 9 per cent from its September peak. The pound fell 0.3 per cent against the greenback to $1.20, while the euro slipped by 1 per cent to $1.054.

Nickel prices jumped on Tuesday, continuing an extended period of volatile trading since the market for the metal was plunged into chaos last March.

The benchmark three-month contract in London for the metal used in stainless steel and electric car batteries shot up on Tuesday as much as 4.9 per cent to $31,475 per tonne, versus an average of $15,000 per tonne in the years before the nickel market crisis. Prices later cooled to $30,500 per tonne.

Asian stocks rallied on Tuesday, with the Hang Seng index up 1.8 per cent on the day, taking its gains since the start of November to 37 per cent.

China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares added 0.4 per cent as the country continued to battle large outbreaks of Covid-19 following the relaxation of measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.

Additional reporting by Harry Dempsey in London


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