Picture: REUTERS
Picture: REUTERS

Tokyo/New York — Asian shares fell on Wednesday and oil prices hit lows not seen since June after a rout in technology shares sank Wall Street for a third consecutive day and a major drugmaker delayed testing of a coronavirus vaccine.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1.06%. Australian stocks dropped 2.47%, while shares in China fell 1.53%. Japan’s Nikkei skidded 1.12%.

US S&P 500 e-mini stock futures erased losses and rose 0.25%, white Nasdaq futures also rose 0.83%.

Euro Stoxx 50 futures were down 0.03%, German DAX futures fell 0.14%, and FTSE futures fell 0.29%.

Sentiment for equities and other risky assets also took a hit after AstraZeneca paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading Covid-19 vaccine candidates due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.

Treasury yields extended declines as investors sought the safety of holding government debt. Risk aversion also pushed the yen to a one-week high against the dollar.

A sell-off in high-flying US technology shares, fuelled partly by the concern about excess purchases of call options, has increased the risk of a larger correction across other markets.

“The performance of Wall Street is going to leave a heavy residue, and most noteworthy is how the tech names dropped down quite aggressively. Investors will take a close note of that,” said Tom Piotrowski, a markets analyst at Australian broker CommSec.

“The dramatic fall in oil prices in the last day is being seen as a proxy for global growth expectations. That 7.6% fall will certainly be resonating.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.25%, the S&P 500 lost 2.78%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.11% on Wall Street on Wednesday.

Among US technology names, electric-car maker Tesla plunged 21.06% on Tuesday, its biggest daily percentage drop, after it was excluded from a group of companies being added to the S&P 500.

SoftBank Group shares fell 3.64% on Wednesday due to the worry about the Japanese conglomerate’s trading in call options on US tech stocks.

SoftBank has fallen about 12% since sources told Reuters and other media late last week that it built up stakes in major US tech companies worth about $4bn and bought a similar amount of call options for the underlying shares.

Counterparties who sold the call options to SoftBank would have to hedge their exposure by buying the underlying shares, which likely contributed to the Nasdaq and S&P 500 reaching record highs only days ago, some traders say.

Options are pricing in bigger market swings from September 16 to October 16, according to one investor.

The US Federal Reserve’s next meeting ends on September 16, which could have a big effect on stock markets because many analysts say excess liquidity created by the Fed has contributed to rising equity prices this year.

US 10-year treasury yields fell to 0.6690%, while the yield curve between two-year and 10-year notes flattened slightly, highlighting declining appetite for risk.

The pound fell to six-week lows against both the dollar and the euro.

The escalating concern over Britain leaving the EU without a trade agreement are weighing on sterling.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood near a four-week high as Wall Street’s sell-off and the renewed fear about Brexit boosted safe-harbour demand for the greenback.

Oil futures extended their sharp decline to the lowest levels since June due to concern about weak global energy demand and excess supply.

Brent fell 0.63% to $39.53 a barrel, while US crude lost 0.73% to trade at $36.49.


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