Asian shares lose ground amid regulatory concerns
New regulatory worries spark the steepest sell-off in seven weeks for Chinese tech shares, while short-term treasury yields spike
Singapore — Asian stocks slipped on Wednesday with new regulatory worries sparking the steepest sell-off in seven weeks for Chinese tech shares, while short-term treasury yields spiked as investors wagered on inflation pulling forward interest rate rises.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.8% led by a 3.5% decline on the Hang Seng tech index after China’s internet watchdog said it plans stricter registration rules for younger net users.
Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.6%. US stock markets are at record highs but futures were listless amid creeping worries about central bankers’ responses to inflation. FTSE futures were flat and European futures fell 0.3%.
The latest evidence of worldwide pressure on consumer prices came from Australia, where data showed core inflation hit a six-year high last quarter.
The Aussie dollar rose and bonds dived to reflect bets the central bank cannot hold rates at record lows.
Two-year US treasury yields surged to a 19-month high of 0.5010% ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting.
“There are a couple of things that are of concern to investors, and inflation news is everywhere,” said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at ANZ Bank in Singapore.
“This is where expectations of when the Fed might start to lift interest rates is starting to come into focus. The announcement of tapering next week is pretty much a done deal — markets have moved past tapering and are focused on tightening.”
The Fed has all but confirmed it will soon start to whittle back its asset purchases, though has said that should not signal rate hikes are imminent. Nevertheless, Fed funds futures are priced for a lift-off in the second half of next year.
“We updated our Fed call to show a hike in the fourth quarter of 2022 and four hikes in 2023,” analysts at NatWest said in a note.
“The inflation overshoot has been persistent,” they said. “There is [only] so much the Fed can tolerate before reacting ... it feels inevitable that that conversation will be brought up more and more as we go into next year.”
In China, besides a further tightening of rules over online access for the young, energy stocks suffered with new measures to curb zooming coal prices which also dropped 10% and have fallen 40% from record peaks.
That seemed to cap gains in the Australian dollar, which settled around 0.3% higher at $0.7526. Three year Australian government bond futures plunged about 19 basis points to their lowest since mid-2019.
Broader currency markets were quiet as traders look to central bank meetings over the next week or so for guidance, with Canada first up at 2pm GMT. The Canadian dollar hovered just below last week’s four month high.
The European Central Bank (ECB) meets on Thursday, when Bank of Japan also concludes its two-day meeting. No changes are expected from Tokyo, but traders are expecting the ECB to push back on market inflation forecasts and are looking for hawkish clues from the Bank of Canada as prices put pressure on rates.
Earnings reports from Ford, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Boeing are due later in the day. Solid results have helped Wall Street to fresh records this week, though on Tuesday Facebook shares fell after the company warned of a hit from changes to Apple’s privacy rules.
“Earnings are enough to hold the big three indices at record highs, but not enough to reinvigorate the rally onto new highs,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior analyst at broker Oanda.
Oil prices eased from overnight peaks, with Brent crude futures down 0.5% at $85.92 a barrel and US crude down 0.7% to $84.05 a barrel.
Gold was steady at $1,788/oz and bitcoin held above $60,000 after a late-session drop on Tuesday.
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