Asia markets swing as uncertainty rules ahead of Easter break

Equity markets have been hit by volatility in recent weeks, hit by fears over rising interest rates and a global trade war

Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian stocks fluctuated on Thursday as a volatile week draws to an early close in many markets, while bubbling trade tensions and another painful day for Wall Street technology shares continued to feed uncertainty.

While news of Kim Jong Un’s visit to China fuelled fresh hopes for stability on the Korean peninsula, investors have been more occupied with fears about a possible global trade war and a sell-off in the tech sector.

However, the South Korean won built on Wednesday’s gains.

Market titan Facebook has led a plunge in big-name stocks on worries about a regulatory clampdown following a massive data breach at the social media site.

Tesla, Amazon, Twitter and Google parent Alphabet have also come under the cosh, sending the tech-rich Nasdaq southwards, with the index losing 0.9 percent Wednesday. The Dow and S&P 500 also ended in the red. 

There was little movement on news that the US economy had grown a lot faster in October-December than previously thought.

In Asia, Hong Kong swung through the day and was up 0.5 percent in the afternoon, following the previous day’s 2.5 percent dive, while Shanghai finished 1.2 percent higher.

Tokyo ended 0.6 percent higher thanks to a weaker yen and Singapore was up more than one percent.

Seoul added 0.7 percent following news that North Korean leader Kim and South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit on April 27. The announcement — just the third meeting between the heads of both countries — is the latest development in the saga that has fuelled optimism for the future.

Wellington, Taipei, Jakarta and Bangkok fell.

Traders in Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore and Wellington, among others, were also moving to close their positions before the end of the January-March quarter, with the Easter break beginning Friday.

Global markets have taken a hit in recent weeks on fears of a trade war as Donald Trump pushes through his protectionist agenda while the Federal Reserve prepares to lift interest rate hikes and other central banks also look to tighten monetary policies.

And analysts predict further ructions.

“We’ve done some damage with the correction and it’s going to take some time to repair,” Bob Doll, portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management, told Bloomberg TV. 

“Expect choppy, sideways volatility.”

In early European trade London was flat, Frankfurt added 0.1 percent and Paris gained 0.4 percent.

– Key figures around 0720 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 21,159.08 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.5 percent at 29,163.30

Shanghai – Composite: UP 1.2 percent at 3,160.53 (close) 

London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,042.94

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.70 yen from 106.86 yen at 2100 GMT 

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2315 from $1.2309 

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4057 from $1.4078

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 32 cents at $64.70 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 23 cents at $68.99 (new contract)

New York – Dow: FLAT at 23,848.42 (close)