Asian markets sink with Wall St as tech firms take another hit

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron's call for a 'new' nuclear deal with Iran pushed oil prices lower

Hong Kong (AFP) – Asian markets went into reverse Wednesday, tracking fresh losses on Wall Street as investors fret about rising US Treasury yields and speculation that interest rates will rise four times this year.

Technology firms were once again in the firing line in response to a plunge in Google parent Alphabet on costs worries while Apple suffered a fifth straight loss because of worries over the crucial smartphone sector.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries broke three percent on Tuesday for the first time in more than four years as surging oil prices and the impact of Donald Trump’s huge tax cuts fan inflation expectations.

There is a fear the higher yields will divert investor attention from equities as safe-bet government debt looks more attractive.

That, along with an improving economy, has fanned talk the Federal Reserve will have to lift borrowing costs more than the three times that has been widely expected this year.

The dollar held most of its recent gains against its peers on expectations of higher rates.

All three main indexes in New York ended deep in the red, with the Dow clocking up a fifth successive loss, with sentiment also dented when construction and mining equipment giant Caterpillar gave a subdued earnings outlook.

“The sudden surge in US yields had already been weighing on equity sentiment, but when you factor in the skid in technology stocks and Caterpillar’s less than reassuring outlook, it makes for a very rough day on the trading floor,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.

– Iran talk hits oil –

Tokyo ended the morning session 0.7 percent lower as a weaker yen was unable to provide support, while pharmaceutical giant Takeda plunged more than six percent after it ramped up its offer for Irish rival Shire.

Hong Kong shed more than one percent and Shanghai slipped 0.4 percent.

Singapore dropped 0.7 percent, Seoul was one percent off and Taipei lost 0.8 percent.

Sydney and Wellington were closed for ANZAC day.

Technology firms were among the worst performers again after a big sell-off in their US counterparts including Apple, Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Microsoft.

Hong Kong-listed AAC Technologies tumbled 3.5 percent, Apple supplier TSMC shed 1.1 percent in Taipei and South Korean titan Samsung tumbled 1.8 percent.

On oil markets both main contracts extended Tuesday’s losses after Trump and Emmanuel Macron — during a state visit by the French president — called for a “new” nuclear deal with Iran.

The comments come as the US president prepares to say whether he will stick with a three-year old agreement designed to curb Iran’s nuclear programme. Talk that he will reimpose sanctions on Tehran have helped push prices up in recent weeks.

Data showing a rise in US crude stockpiles added to selling pressure.

– Key figures around 0250 GMT – 

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 22,134.17 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.1 percent at 30,315.27

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,117.00

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2230 from $1.2235 at 2100 GMT

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.01 yen from 108.78

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3980 from $1.3979

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: DOWN seven cents at $67.63 per barrel

Oil – Brent North Sea: DOWN 13 cents at $73.73 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 1.7 percent at 24,024.13 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,425.40 (close)