Pedestrians walks past a stock indicator board for the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on October 23, 2018. - Tokyo stocks dropped sharply on October 23 morning trade with investors concerned by an array of geopolitical risks and cautious ahead of corporate earnings season. Picture: Behrouz MEHRI/AFP
Pedestrians walks past a stock indicator board for the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo on October 23, 2018. - Tokyo stocks dropped sharply on October 23 morning trade with investors concerned by an array of geopolitical risks and cautious ahead of corporate earnings season. Picture: Behrouz MEHRI/AFP

Sydney — Asian share markets turned mixed on Friday, as hope for a thaw in the China-US trade standoff was tempered by disappointing results from US chipmaker Nvidia, which slugged the tech sector.

The pound also lay battered and bruised after a bout of political turmoil fanned fear that Britain could crash out of the European Union without a divorce deal.

Asian shares started firm after reports that the US might pause on further tariffs on goods from China gave Wall Street a fillip, but a nearly 17% plunge in Nvidia’s stock tempered the mood.

The chip designer forecast disappointing sales for the holiday quarter, pinning the blame on unsold chips piling up with distributors and retailers after the evaporation of the cryptocurrency mining boom.

Also falling after-hours were shares of Advanced Micro Devices and Intel.

Losses in semiconductor shares dragged Japan’s Nikkei down 0.1%, while Nasdaq futures fell 0.5%.

“It started with Apple, then Nvidia…. Since performances of these companies set the tone for the global tech and chip industries, related Japanese stocks will likely be sluggish for a while,” said Takatoshi Itoshima, a strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were still up 0.3%, helped by gains in China. European bourses also looked set to start firmer, according to spreadbetters.

Pounded

Sterling stole the limelight overnight after a rash of resignations rocked Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and threw into doubt her long-awaited Brexit agreement, just hours after it was unveiled.

Fear that May’s hard-fought deal could collapse sent British markets into gyrations not seen since the June 2016 referendum on EU membership.

The pound suffered its biggest one-day loss against the euro since October 2016 and was last at 88.60p. Against the dollar, it was huddled at $1.2790 after shedding 1.6% overnight.

Joseph Capurso, a senior currency strategist at CBA, listed just some of sterling's woes.

“If and when a vote on the withdrawal agreement occurs is uncertain. Whether the withdrawal bill is passed by both houses of Parliament is uncertain,” Capurso said in a note.

“Whether the prime minister resigns or is challenged for the leadership is uncertain. And, whether there is a second referendum and/or an election is uncertain.”

All of which helped British bonds rally sharply as investors wagered the political chaos and risk of a hard Brexit would deter the Bank of England from tightening anytime soon.

Yields on five-year paper staged the largest one-day decline since the Brexit vote, at almost 15 basis points.

The plunge in sterling lifted the dollar against a basket of currencies to 96.993, even as the euro firmed a touch to $1.1333.

Also under water was cryptocurrency Bitcoin, which hit a one-year trough overnight after tumbling 10% early in the week when support at $6,000 gave way. It was last changing hands at $5,560.73 on the Bitstamp platform.

In commodity markets, gold was up a shade at $1,214.30 .

Oil prices regained a little composure after their recent drubbing, helped by a decline in US fuel stockpiles and the possibility of a cut in Opec output.

US crude was trading up 40c at $56.86, while Brent crude rose 52c to $67.14 a barrel.

Reuters