Asia-Pacific stocks set to drop, tracking losses on Wall Street

Australia’s unemployment rate holds, but jobs take a hit

Australia’s unemployment rate inched up 3.5% in December, slightly beating Reuters’ expectations of a 48-year low reading of 3.4%.

The figure compares to a 3.4% unemployment rate for November.

However, employment numbers for December plunged 14,600, widely missing expectations of a 22,500 growth as well as an increase of 64,000 for November.

—Lee Ying Shan

CNBC Pro: Morgan Stanley’s Slimmon says stocks will ‘surprise’ Wall Street in 2023 — and names two he likes

Investment veteran Andrew Slimmon said he believes stocks are going to do “far better” than most expect this year.

“I’m not so sure about the second half of this year but I think the surprise is going to be that the stock market is going to do better earlier this year than what was almost universally predicted by many of the strategists on the sell side,” Slimmon, senior portfolio manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

He also named two of his favorite stocks.

Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Zavier Ong

Japan reports trade deficit for December

Japan recorded a trade deficit of 1.45 trillion yen ($11.27 billion) for the month of December, according to official data.

Japan’s imports in December climbed 20.6% compared to a year ago, slightly lower than Reuters’ expectations of 22.4%. Its exports rose 11.5% year-on-year, compared against an estimate of 10.1%.

The reading would cap off an entire year of trade deficits for Japan.

—Lee Ying Shan

CNBC Pro: 2023 is set to be tough — but this ‘exceptional’ stock is rock solid, fund manager says

Many investors are bracing themselves for a tough year, with at least a mild recession looking likely.

Because of the “darkening” economic environment, fund manager Trent Masters of Alphinity Investment Management told CNBC Pro Talks that he picks stocks with one key quality: earnings resilience.

He names one “rock solid” stock that meets that criterion.

CNBC Pro subscribers can read more here.

— Weizhen Tan

Stocks finish lower on Wednesday

All of the major averages ended the day lower on Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 613.89 points, or 1.81%. The S&P 500 lost 1.56% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 1.24%.

— Tanaya Macheel

Fed’s Mester says ‘we need to keep going’ with rate hikes

Cleveland Federal Reserve President Loretta Mester said Wednesday that interest rates have to keep moving higher even with recent inflation readings softening.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the policymaker said the Fed likely will have to take its benchmark interest rate above 5% in order to get inflation moving consistently down to the central bank’s 2% goal. She noted that markets and the economy absorbed the half-point December rate hike without a problem.

“I just think we need to keep going, and we’ll discuss at the [Jan. 31-Feb. 1] meeting how much to do at any one particular meeting,” Mester said. “But my projections and my view of the economy is that we need to do more, we need to get above 5% and then hold it there for some time until we get inflation expectations very well anchored at 2% … and inflation on that downward path.”

The fed funds rate is currently targeted in a range between 4.25%-4.5%.

—Jeff Cox

Holiday sales data misses expectations

Holiday sales numbers came in lighter than expected for 2022, according to data from the National Retail Federation.

The industry group said sales in November and December were up 5.3% year over year. The NRF had projected growth between 6% and 8%.

The data does not include spending at automobile dealerships, gasoline stations and restaurants. The sales numbers are not adjusted for inflation.

— Jesse Pound, Melissa Repko