Asia equities mostly down on tech selling but dollar rises

Traders are awaiting the release of US growth data Friday, looking for a better idea about the state of the economy and the Federal Reserve's plans for monetary policy
AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) – Further weakness in the technology sector dragged on Asian equities Thursday while the dollar extended recent gains as US Treasury yields sat at four-year highs.

Expectations the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates four times this year — instead of the three times previously thought — have increased as the improving economy, rising oil prices and Donald Trump’s huge tax cuts fan inflationary pressure.

This has led the yield on 10-year Treasuries — which are used as a benchmark for mortgage rates — to break the three-percent mark Tuesday.

The dollar has also pushed to multi-month highs against the yen and euro with the single unit also weighed by fading chances for monetary tightening by the European Central Bank.

“The US dollar is breaking out and if the ECB is even slightly dovish (at its policy meeting Thursday) — or perhaps not hawkish — the euro could break wide open and with that, the big surge in the dollar will have truly begun,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

The greenback reversed early losses Thursday against its major peers and analysts say it could soon test the 110-yen level while the euro could dip to $1.2150.

Dealers are keeping a close eye on US growth data Friday for a better idea about the Fed’s monetary policy plans.

– Tech firms’ woes –

With safe government debt offering more attractive returns, riskier assets such as equities have also been hit, though Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trade at OANDA, said “it looks like the three percent 10-year Treasury doom-and-gloom hand was overplayed”.

The Dow and S&P 500 ended with gains in New York but the Nasdaq retreated.

In Asia, most major markets were in the red. Hong Kong fell 1.1 percent and Shanghai shed 1.4 percent, while Sydney and Singapore each dipped 0.2 percent.

Manila, Wellington and Bangkok also sank. Jakarta dived more than two percent on worries Indonesia’s central bank is preparing to raise interest rates.

However, Tokyo ended 0.5 percent higher thanks to a weaker yen, while Seoul jumped more than one percent and the won also gained ahead of a historic North-South Korea summit on Friday.

Technology firms again struggled on worries about the smartphone sector, which has seen Apple shares battered over the past week.

A strong earnings report from South Korean titan Samsung saw its stock jump 3.5 percent but it warned about falling demand for high-tech handsets as well as competition from Chinese companies.

Apple supplier LG Display fell 3.2 percent in Seoul while in Taipei, chip giant TSMC slipped 1.3 percent and Foxconn shed 1.2 percent. Among other tech firms, Hong Kong-listed AAC Technologies dived 3.5 percent and Tencent shed 1.2 percent.

Oil prices built on recent gains as uncertainty over Trump’s decision regarding the Iran nuclear deal, along with the OPEC-Russia output cap, helped offset a disappointing reading on US stockpiles.

In early European trade, London fell 0.3 percent, Paris was flat and Frankfurt shed 0.2 percent.

– Key figures around 0830 GMT – 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 22,319.61 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.1 percent at 30,007.68 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 3,075.03 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,360.89

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2160 from $1.2168 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.41 yen from 109.39

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.38960 from $1.3924

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 19 cents at $68.24 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 37 cents at $74.37 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 24.083.83 (close)

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