Asian shares struggle amid risk-off sentiment
A bout of risk aversion boosts bonds and the dollar, while investors brace for minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting
Sydney — Asian share markets stumbled on Wednesday as a bout of risk aversion boosted bonds and the dollar, while investors, braced for minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting which should underline a hawkish turn in US monetary policy.
Dealers were hard pressed to find a single catalyst for the sudden change of mood, but a Chinese crackdown on tech companies had clearly had an effect.
Hong Kong stocks shed another 1% to almost six-month lows, while US-listed ride-hailing company Didi Global shed more than 20% in New York. Alibaba Group and jd.com fell.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged down 0.4%, while Japan’s Nikkei slipped 0.9%.
Going the other way, Australian stocks managed to firm 0.6% and Chinese blue chips added 0.2%.
Nasdaq futures and S&P 500 futures were both holding steady for the moment.
Wall Street had been unsettled by a survey showing a slight cooling in the red-hot US services sector, though at 60.1 the ISM index was still historically high.
“Normally any ISM reading approaching 60 or above would be seen as strong, but details play to the idea that there is a speed limit to the recovery amid shortage of inputs and labour, alongside still elevated costs,” said Rodrigo Catril, a senior forex strategist at NAB.
The skittish mood helped treasuries extend their recent rally with yields on US 10-year notes dropping almost eight basis points overnight to 1.348%. That was the lowest since February and also the largest daily decline since February.
The outperformance of longer-dated debt saw the yield curve bull flatten, which could be a bet the Fed will tighten policy pre-emptively to head off inflation.
Minutes of the Fed’s June policy meeting due later on Wednesday might show how serious members were about tapering their asset buying and how early hikes could begin.
Expectations of a hawkish tone helped the dollar rally against a basket of currencies to 92.543, up from a low of 92.003 on Tuesday. The euro dropped back to $1.1823, near its lowest since March while commodity-linked currencies slipped.
The dollar had less luck on the safe-haven yen, easing to ¥110.45.
“We now expect a period of broad dollar strength over coming quarters,” said Kim Mundy, a senior currency strategist at CBA.
“Our view boils down to US economic outperformance for a period, so we have downgraded our near-term forecasts for all currencies we monitor against the dollar.”
In commodity markets, the bounce in the dollar offset the general risk-off mood to leave gold steady at $1,801/oz after briefly reaching as high as $1,814 overnight.
Oil prices had shed some recent gains after oil cartel Opec producers cancelled a meeting when major players were unable to come to an agreement to increase supply.
Analysts at NatWest Markets said the absence of a deal on expanding output was a positive for prices in the near term, but could be a liability over time.
“A lack of agreement among major oil producers at least opens up the risk that the entire Opec+ deal collapses, leading major oil producers to significantly step up production much faster,” they said on a note.
Early Wednesday, Brent was off 18c at $74.35 a barrel, while US crude lost 10c to $73.27.
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