Asian stocks follow Wall St lower as investors wait on US jobs data

Payroll numbers could be a selling trigger if slowdown in hiring is deeper than forecast

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street in New York City.

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Wall Street in New York City.

 

Asia’s stock markets had their worst session in two weeks on Friday following a tech-led plunge on Wall Street, though gains in safer assets like bonds and dollars were muted as investors awaited US job data to see if it triggers a bigger selloff.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.5 per cent and looked set to snap a six-week winning streak with a 2.3 per cent weekly loss, its biggest since April.

The Nikkei declined 1 per cent. Australia’s ASX 200 led losses with a 3 per cent fall as global investors sold growth-exposed miners like BHP and traders trimmed positions ahead of the weekend in case Wall Street takes another dive.

Elsewhere drops were a little lighter, with a 1.5 per cent decline for the Hang Seng and a 1.3 per cent fall in Korea - much less than the overnight 5 per cent plunge in the tech-heavy Nasdaq.

“It’s not panic selling,” said Jun Bei Liu, a portfolio manager at Sydney’s Tribeca Investment Partners which runs about $2 billion ($1.4 billion) in domestic and international funds.

“The pullback is probably a healthy pullback, given the amount of outperformance tech companies have had.”

Futures were under pressure but backed off early lows. Nasdaq 100 futures were last down 1.1 per cent, S&P 500 futures down 0.3 per cent and those for the pan-Europe Euro Stoxx 50 were up 0.3 per cent. FTSE futures fell 0.5 per cent.

Focus is now on US payrolls figures due at 12.30pm, which could be a selling trigger if an expected slowdown in hiring is deeper than forecast.

Foreign exchange markets were on edge at the possibility and a safety bid helped the dollar cling to gains that have it headed for its best week in more than two months.

The euro, which has fallen from a 28-month peak above $1.20 on talk that the European Central Bank is concerned about its strength, seems to have arrested its slide for now, and last sat at $1.1848.

The yen was steady at 106.16 per dollar and bonds pared what was a pretty modest rise overnight, given the selloff in the equity market.

Benchmark US 10-year bond yields rose about 2 basis points on Friday, having fallen about 3 basis points overnight.

Thursday’s tumble was the biggest one-day percentage drop on the tech-focused Nasdaq 100 since March and the darling stocks of recent months were hit hardest.

Apple fell 8 per cent, Tesla 9 per cent and Microsoft 6 per cent. Still, the plunge only wound the Nasdaq back as far as where it sat last Tuesday. It is still up 28 per cent for the year so far and 73 per cent higher than its March trough.

“No single factor sparked the sell-off,” said Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist at JP Morgan Asset Management, citing more general worries the rally had run too far, too fast.

“However, this is unlikely to be a repeat of the tech wreck of the late 1990s, given how much the market and sector have changed,” he added.

Tech selling in Asia was limited. In South Korea Samsung fell 1.3 per cent and there was modest pressure on Apple suppliers in Shanghai and Taipei. But falls in consumer staples and financials led losses on the Hong Kong and China bourses.

In commodity markets, a firm dollar has kept pressure on prices. Oil was headed for its largest weekly drop since June amid worries about demand as the US summer driving season draws to a close.

Brent crude futures fell 0.8 per cent to $43.72 a barrel and US crude fell 0.9 per cent to $41.00 a barrel.

Gold drifted lower as equities sold off overnight but was last up 0.3 per cent for the day at $1,935 an ounce. – Reuters