A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SOICHIRO KORIYAMA
A pedestrian wearing a protective mask walks past an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo, Japan. Picture: BLOOMBERG/SOICHIRO KORIYAMA

Hong Kong — Asian shares dropped on Thursday, while the dollar held firm, in line with a cautious global mood as investors worried about the combination of slowing global growth and the potential tapering of central bank stimulus.

The European Central Bank (ECB) is particularly in focus, with analysts expecting it to announce a token step towards reducing its emergency economic support later on Thursday.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1.04%, while Japan’s Nikkei dropped 0.38%.

There were losses in Australia, which was down 1.01%, while Korea was off 0.74% and in Hong Kong shed 1.17%, with tech names leading the declines there.

The Hang Seng Tech Index fell 2.44% in early trading, weighed by declines in Tencent Holdings, which was down 3.7%, and NetEase Inc down over 7% after China’s government on Wednesday summoned gaming firms to ensure they implement new rules for the sector.

Chinese blue chips were down 0.41% just after the bell, and US stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were down 0.16%.

Edison Pun, a senior market analyst at Saxo Markets, attributed the bearish global turn to strong US job openings data overnight, which “means the job market is still strong, and that could mean tapering may still start in [the fourth quarter] despite the poor non-farm payroll in August,” he said.

Earlier this week, investors had bet the lower-than-expected payroll reading from Friday would mean the Federal Reserve would delay trimming its massive asset purchases, sending MSCI’s world equity index to a new all-time high on Tuesday.

However, the mood has turned more cautious since then, and several Fed policymakers on Wednesday signalled the US central bank remains on track to reduce asset purchases in 2021.

On Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%, the S&P 500 lost 0.13% and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.57%.

After its meeting on Thursday, analysts expect the ECB to announce a cut to the pace of its emergency bond purchases from next quarter but will keep buying bonds at least until 2024 under its main programme, and possibly much longer.

Ahead of the decision, the euro slipped to $1.1814, a little off Friday’s two-month high of $1.1909, while the dollar was steady against a basket of its peers, having gained in the previous three sessions.

Benchmark 10-year treasury notes yielded 1.3376%, little changed in Asian hours, having edged lower on Wednesday after a strong auction by the US Treasury.

Oil prices ticked lower, giving up some of last session’s gains, though a slow recovery in production in the US Gulf of Mexico output after Hurricane Ida offered some support.

US crude dipped 0.1% to $69.23 a barrel. Brent crude fell 0.11% to $72.55 a barrel.

Gold dropped slightly, languishing near two-week lows, with the spot price at $1,787.67/oz off 0.09%.

Reuters

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