Asian equities diverge from record-setting world stocks

Traders say weakness due to potential for new regulatory crackdowns in China

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street

 

Asian shares again ignored record highs hit elsewhere in the world to fall on Friday, with declines in chip manufacturers weighing on several markets, though Australia bucked the trend.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.87 per cent, and was down 1.09 per cent for the week.

Traders say the weakness is due to worries about the potential for new regulatory crackdowns in China and the fallout from the surging Delta variant of the new coronavirus in several countries in the region.

South Korea and Thailand both reported record daily case totals this week, and increasing social restrictions in China to fight its latest Covid-19 outbreak are hurting the country’s travel and hospitality sectors.

Japan’s Nikkei was broadly flat, with declines among chip makers neutralising gains elsewhere. The yen-based MSCI Japan semiconductor index fell 1.73 per cent.

Morgan Stanley analysts said in a note that while prices are still rising, global semiconductor supply is catching up with demand and they expect earnings growth expectations to reverse.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.4 per cent and was set for its sharpest weekly decline since January, with Samsung Electronics falling 3.5 per cent, even as its vice chairman Jay Y Lee, convicted of bribery and embezzlement, was released on parole.

Chinese blue chips fell 0.76 per cent, dragged down by its local semiconductor sub-index, which fell 3.4 per cent.

More broadly, “rising regulatory and geopolitical risks are weighing on medium-term growth prospects (in China), especially in segments targeted by national reform or security effort,” private bank UBP said in a note.

However, Australia’s ASX200 rose 0.53 per cent to a record high, lifted by healthcare and technology companies.

“For the most part (Australia) was not directly impacted by the crackdown by Chinese authorities on the tech sector,” said Kyle Rodda, an analyst at IG markets.

Overnight, MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe hit another record high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 also closed at record highs for the third consecutive day.

Earlier, European stocks had equalled their longest winning streak since 2017, closing up 0.1 per cent and extending gains for a ninth consecutive session.

The dollar held firm on Friday, staying near its highest level in four months against a basket of currencies, as investors looked for more hints from the US Federal Reserve on its plans to reduce monetary stimulus.

Nearly two-thirds of economists polled by Reuters said the Fed is likely to announce a taper of its asset purchases – currently set at $80 billion of Treasuries and $40 billion of mortgage-backed securities per month – at its September meeting.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was last 1.3506 per cent, compared to its US close of 1.367 per cent.

Oil prices fell for a second straight day after the International Energy Agency warned that demand growth for crude and its products had slowed sharply. – Reuters