A man wearing a protective face mask talks on his cellphone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA
A man wearing a protective face mask talks on his cellphone in front of a screen showing the Nikkei index outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: REUTERS/ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA

London/Hong Kong — Asian stocks hit their lowest this year on Tuesday on a third straight session of selling in Chinese internet giants, and real bond yields hit record lows ahead of a  US Federal Reserve policy meeting.

The Hong Kong benchmark fell 4.57%, its third day of declines, with the Hang Seng tech index down 8.69% to its lowest since its inception in July 2020. It has fallen about 17% in three days and has lost 44% from a February peak.

Big decliners included Meituan and Alibaba, whose shares fell 16.1% and 5.5% respectively. Both were down for the third successive day with investors expecting the companies’ food delivery arms to be affected by new regulations guaranteeing workers above minimum pay.

Chinese blue-chips dropped 3.53%, also hitting 2021 lows, thanks to regulatory crackdowns in the education and property sectors.

“The market seems to be uncertain whether there will be more policy changes for fintech, social media platforms, delivery platforms and ride hailing platforms,” said Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING.

“Each has their own issue and faces different regulatory actions, so the market is looking for ‘which technology subsector will be next?’”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 2.2% to its lowest level since end-December, having slid 2.45% the previous day.

Japan’s Nikkei rose 0.49%, however, and Australian shares were up 0.5%.

Asian weakness weighed on European stocks, which fell 0.92%, moving further away from recent record highs. Britain's FTSE 100 was down 1.23%. Global stocks fell 0.35%.

S&P 500 futures dipped 0.24% after all three major US stock indexes closed at record highs for a second straight session on Monday, on optimism ahead of a slew of tech earnings this week.

Alphabet, Apple and Microsoft are set to publish quarterly results late on Tuesday, with Amazon.com’s due later in the week.

In addition, the Fed will begins its two-day meeting on Tuesday, with investors set to scrutinise a statement and press conference from chair Jerome Powell due late Wednesday.

They will be looking to see how the central bank will balance fast-rising prices with the complication of increased coronavirus infections.

“While we expect the Federal Reserve to prove more hawkish than expected … the negative impact on the equity market should be quite subdued as easy monetary policy is still there for quite a while,” said Sebastien Galy, senior macro strategist at Nordea Asset Management.

Real, or inflation-adjusted, bond yields in the US and Europe have fallen to record lows and on Tuesday, the yield on 10-year Treasury inflation-protected securities (TIPS) hit -1.147%, down four basis points on the day. German inflation-linked bond yields also extended their recent falls, hitting a new low at around -1.747%.

ING Bank strategist Antoine Bouvet said the fall in real yields could be explained by thin market liquidity and hefty central bank bond buying.

“Of course there are macro worries, and the phase of growth acceleration of this cycle looks to be over, but this does not justify rates where they are,” he said.

The yield on benchmark 10-year US treasury notes slipped one basis point and 10-year German Bund yields dropped 2.6 basis points, close to a five-and-a-half month low set on Monday.

The dollar rose 0.18% against a basket of currencies and the euro slipped 0.2% versus the dollar. The dollar also fell 0.2% against the yen.

US crude dropped 0.45% to $71.60 a barrel amid concern surging Covid-19 cases worldwide could affect demand.

Gold was steady at $1,798.86/oz.

Bitcoin was trading at about $37,100 from a Monday peak of $40,581 after Amazon.com offered a qualified denial of a weekend news report that said it was preparing to accept cryptocurrencies.

Reuters

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