Asian markets were in skittish mood on Thursday following a soft finish on Wall Street and amid simmering tensions over Ukraine, while Chinese tech stocks took a tumble in sympathy with their U.S. counterparts.
Trading was thin and choppy with the month and quarter-end fast approaching. Tokyo stocks initially skidded as investors counted down to a rise in sales tax that is expected to chill consumer spending and test the market’s faith in Abenomics.
But the Nikkei .N225 met solid support near 14,200, as it has for weeks now, and rebounded to be up 0.6 percent.
Some blamed Wall Street’s slip on news the United States and the European Union had agreed to work together to prepare possible tougher economic sanctions in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
The Dow .DJI ended down 0.60 percent, while the S&P 500 .SPX fell 0.70 percent. The technology-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC shed 1.43 percent to a low not seen in six weeks.
The losses were led by Facebook (FB.O) off almost 7 percent after announcing a $2 billion takeover of Oculus VR Inc, a maker of virtual-reality glasses for gaming.
Gaming company King Digital Entertainment Plc (KING.N) also fell as much as 16 percent in its U.S. debut on Wednesday.
The losses spooked the Chinese tech sector where index heavyweight Tencent Holdings Ltd (0700.HK) shed 6 percent to its lowest level in six weeks.
The Hang Seng .HSI lost 0.5 percent and Shanghai .SSEC 0.75 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS was little changed, much like most other bourses across the region.
Shares in Citigroup Inc (C.N) fell after hours when the Federal Reserve rejected its plans to buy back $6.4 billion of stock and boost its dividends, citing deficiencies in the bank’s ability to withstand stressful situations.
Others blocked by the Fed in their plans for higher dividends or share buy backs included the U.S. units of HSBC (HSBA.L), RBS (RBS.L) and Santander (SAN.MC).
In debt markets, the talk was all about Wednesday’s auction of new U.S. five-year notes that drew such stellar demand from investors that it left dealers with the lowest share of an offer on record. <US/>
That drove five-year yields down a sharp 7 basis points to 1.74 percent, unwinding some of the rise seen since Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen last week spooked markets with talk of rate hikes next year.
Yields in Europe have been falling even more as policymakers there hint at radical stimulus measures. Some of the European Central Bank’s most conservative policymakers have said the bank could adopt more unconventional measures to tackle a surging euro and ward off deflation.
“It seems the ECB is concerned about disinflation a bit more than the market had been led to believe. The ECB seems to be trying to adjust market expectations as the euro has gained,” said Shin Kadota, chief FX strategist at Barclays.
As a result the premium that U.S. two-year notes offer over German debt hit a 15-month high on Wednesday, making the euro relatively less attractive against the dollar.
That saw the single currency ease to $1.3783, well off the week’s peak of $1.3875. The biggest loss came against the Australian dollar where the euro sank 0.9 percent to a four-month trough at A$1.4910.
The U.S. dollar was steady against a basket of major currencies at 80.025 .DXY, and regained early losses on the yen to stand at 102.15.
In commodities, spot gold was soggy at $1,302.93 an ounce after plumbing a 5-week low of $1,298.29 on Wednesday.
U.S. crude oil was holding at $100.31 a barrel having gained a dollar on Wednesday as inventories at the future’s delivery point dropped for the eighth straight week. Brent for May delivery was off 8 cents at $106.95 a barrel.
Source : Reuters