Foreign exchange traders monitor screens in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT
Foreign exchange traders monitor screens in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/CARL COURT

Sydney — Asian shares were on the back foot on Thursday following mixed cues from Wall Street where a sharp sell-off in the largest bitcoin exchange Coinbase hit tech shares while the dollar index struggled near one-month lows.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan paused after two straight days of gains. It was last at 690.53, a long way from a record high of 745.89 touched in February.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.2% while South Korea’s Kospi index was up a tad.

Australia’s benchmark index slipped 0.4% as miners were dented by weaker prices for iron ore and coal.

Global shares have surged in recent weeks led by successful rollouts of Covid-19 vaccines around the world, US stimulus packages and higher US inflation expectations.

“However, the backup in treasury yields has begun to exert a valuation test on some parts of the global equity markets with value outperforming growth,” Jefferies analysts wrote in a note.

“Equally, there are fewer stocks offering decent yields and higher capital gains.”

JPMorgan Asset Management was trimming its overall emerging markets (EM) exposure “mostly driven by a less sanguine outlook on EM Asia”, its global multi-asset strategist Patrik Schowitz wrote in a note.

“China has now recovered enough that policymakers can afford to be more conservative and worry more about containing debt and property market risks. That will be a headwind to China equities, despite the solid economy,” Schowitz added.

Chinese shares started in the red on Thursday with the blue-chip CSI300 index down 0.2%.

JPMorgan Asset Management is less keen on tech shares, which Schowitz said should have less upside to earnings expectations in the near term and are “very expensive” relative to value.

Overnight, Wall Street ended mixed, with the tech sector the biggest underperformer after Coinbase was sold off on its listing day, dragging the Nasdaq lower.

Coinbase’s listing coincided with a record price for bitcoin, which rose to just under $65,000, but the euphoria proved to be short-lived as the stock fell nearly 20% from its opening level to trade at $328.

“That would be a bit painful if you bought the stock at its intraday peak of $429.54,” said NAB strategist Rodrigo Catril.

US bank earnings were the other big focus, with Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Wells Fargo reporting strong results.

In currencies, the US dollar was on track for a fourth consecutive day of fall against its major counterparts.

Forex investors are keeping an eye on treasury yields for direction, with a potential market panic about accelerating inflation seen as the biggest risk to sentiment.

Major policymakers, including the US Federal Reserve, have repeatedly said there is still plenty of labour market slack to keep inflation in check for several years, though there might be temporary spikes they are willing to overlook.

Against the Japanese yen, the dollar slipped for a fourth day to 108.93. The euro rose to $1.195 and sterling was a shade higher at $1.3790.

The Australian dollar hovered near three-week highs at $0.7736 after posting its biggest one-day percentage gain since February 19 on Wednesday. Its New Zealand peer was upbeat at $0.7160, a level not seen since March 23.

In commodities, oil gave back some of the gains from Wednesday when it climbed nearly 5% on signs of increasing crude demand.

Brent crude was off 40 US cents at $66.18 a barrel. Light crude slipped to $62.75.

Gold was 0.1% higher at $1,738.8/oz. 

Reuters

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