Asia’s major markets went backwards on Thursday with worries over surging inflation, the prospect of a Covid rerun and the imminent likelihood of the end of the cheap-cash era dampening the mood on trading floors.
Continuing worries about China’s vast property sector and the future of giant developer Evergrande were also in traders’ minds ahead of another critical payment deadline, while uncertainty over Joe Biden’s social spending plan was also keeping a lid on sentiment.
However, a string of healthy corporate earnings reports has provided a welcome boost to trading floors, helping push markets to multi-year or record highs this week, while Apple and Amazon are due to report later in the day.
Initial optimism that the global economic recovery would roll on well into next year has petered out in recent months as dealers assess the impact of soaring inflation, with prices rising at rates not seen for decades in some countries owing to supply chain snarls and rocketing demand.
That has led several central banks to lift interest rates sooner than they had hoped or withdraw their easy-money policies to prevent inflation from running out of control.
Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is expected to start tapering its vast bond-buying programme by the end of the year and hike rates in the middle of 2022, while the Bank of Japan held its own easing policy in place Thursday.
After a broadly negative lead from Wall Street, Asia also dropped, with Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul, Sydney, Singapore, Wellington, Mumbai, Taipei, Jakarta and Manila all selling off.
The Hang Seng Index dipped 0.28%, or 73.01 points, to 25,555.73. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.23%, or 43.89 points, to 3,518.42, while the Shenzhen Composite Index on China’s second exchange dropped 1.47%, or 35.27 points, to 2,362.24.
Biden’s Washington Battle
The benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.96% or 278.15 points at 28,820.09 while the broader Topix index ended down 0.70% or 14.15 points at 1,999.66.
In Washington, Biden was battling with Democratic leaders to resolve disputes over their giant $1.5 trillion-plus social spending plan, though some lawmakers warned a deal did not appear to be imminent.
Oil prices briefly fell more than 2% to extend Wednesday’s sharp drops following data showing a big gain in US inventories of crude and petrol. The figures eased concerns about a supply crunch and surging demand.
News that Iran and the European Union had agreed to restart talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme added to the selling pressure, raising the prospect of more crude hitting markets if sanctions on the Middle Eastern country are eased.
“The prospect of a full return of Iranian crude to world markets would be a bit of a game-changer,” OANDA’s Jeffrey Halley said.
Tokyo > Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.0% at 28,820.09 (close)
Hong Kong > Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.3% at 25,555.73 (close)
Shanghai > Composite: DOWN 1.2% at 3,518.42 (close)
New York > Dow: DOWN 0.7% at 35,490.69 (close)
- AFP with additional editing by Sean O’Meara