SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asia’s stock markets had their worst session in two weeks on Friday following a tech-led plunge on Wall Street, though gains in safer assets like bonds and dollars were muted as investors awaited U.S. job data to see if it triggers a bigger selloff.
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is reflected in a screen displaying NASDAQ movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.5% and looked set to snap a six-week winning streak with a 2.3% weekly loss, its biggest since April.
The Nikkei declined 1%. Australia’s ASX 200 led losses with a 3% fall as global investors sold growth-exposed miners like BHP and traders trimmed positions ahead of the weekend in case Wall Street takes another dive.
Elsewhere drops were a little lighter, with a 1.5% decline for the Hang Seng and a 1.3% fall in Korea – much less than the overnight 5% plunge in the tech-heavy Nasdaq.
“It’s not panic selling,” said Jun Bei Liu, a portfolio manager at Sydney’s Tribeca Investment Partners which runs about A$2 billion ($1.4 billion) in domestic and international funds.
“The pullback is probably a healthy pullback, given the amount of outperformance tech companies have had.”
Futures were under pressure but backed off early lows. Nasdaq 100 futures were last down 1.1%, S&P 500 futures down 0.3% and those for the pan-Europe Euro STOXX 50 were up 0.3%. FTSE futures fell 0.5%.
Focus is now on U.S. payrolls figures due at 1230 GMT, which could be a selling trigger if an expected slowdown in hiring is deeper than forecast.
Foreign exchange markets were on edge at the possibility and a safety bid helped the dollar cling to gains that have it headed for its best week in more than two months. [FRX/]
The euro, which has fallen from a 28-month peak above $1.20 on talk that the European Central Bank is concerned about its strength, seems to have arrested its slide for now, and last sat at $1.1848.
The yen was steady at 106.16 per dollar and bonds pared what was a pretty modest rise overnight, given the selloff in the equity market.
Benchmark U.S. 10-year bond yields rose about 2 basis points on Friday, having fallen about 3 basis points overnight.
Thursday’s tumble was the biggest one-day percentage drop on the tech-focused Nasdaq 100 since March and the darling stocks of recent months were hit hardest.
Apple fell 8%, Tesla 9% and Microsoft 6%. Still, the plunge only wound the Nasdaq back as far as where it sat last Tuesday. It is still up 28% for the year so far and 73% higher than its March trough.
“No single factor sparked the sell-off,” said Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, citing more general worries the rally had run too far, too fast.
“However, this is unlikely to be a repeat of the tech wreck of the late 1990s, given how much the market and sector have changed,” he added.
Tech selling in Asia was limited. In South Korea Samsung fell 1.3% and there was modest pressure on Apple suppliers in Shanghai and Taipei. But falls in consumer staples and financials led losses on the Hong Kong and China bourses.
In commodity markets, a firm dollar has kept pressure on prices. Oil was headed for its largest weekly drop since June amid worries about demand as the U.S. summer driving season draws to a close.
Brent crude futures fell 0.8% to $43.72 a barrel and U.S. crude fell 0.9% to $41.00 a barrel.
Gold drifted lower as equities sold off overnight but was last up 0.3% for the day at $1,935 an ounce.
Reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore. Additional reporting by Alwyn Scott and Herbert Lash in New York; Editing by Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill