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Asian stocks tumble following sell-off on Wall Street

Asian markets tumbled on Friday as investors appeared to be jolted by several issues, from the continued prospect of rising inflation to a volatile US-China meeting and stubborn coronavirus flare-ups in Europe.

China’s Shanghai Composite lost 1.7%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.4% and South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.9%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.6%, recovering somewhat after falling more than 2% earlier in the day. Energy stocks were the index’s biggest drag, with oil firms PetroChina and CNOOC and refiner Sinopec all tumbling 4% or more.

The energy sector slump came after a rough day for oil prices, which tumbled Thursday on fears that the global economic recovery could be held back by stubborn coronavirus outbreaks in Europe and slow vaccine roll-outs. The global oil benchmark Brent crude fell nearly 7% to hit at $63.28 per barrel, while US oil fell more than 7% to $60 a barrel. Oil futures continued to slip during Asian hours.

“With the well-telegraphed vaccine distribution problems in Europe already weighing on the Bloc’s markets,” news of big lockdowns in France “played no small part in oil’s demise,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, in a Friday research note.

Those weren’t the only concerns hitting markets. Hong Kong’s tech sector also took a beating, following a steep fall on Wall Street’s tech-focused Nasdaq Composite on Thursday.

While all three major US indexes finished Thursday in the red, the Nasdaq suffered the steepest losses as the 10-year Treasury bond yield climbed to a new 13-month high.

“The rapid rise in long-end US yields has spooked investors again overnight as there appears to be no lasting respite for the fixed income onslaught,” wrote Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist for Sydney-based online broker Axi, in a Friday research note.

He added that tech stocks were hit particularly hard because rising bond yields are bad news for those high-growth companies, as inflation hurts the value of their future earnings. Low rates boost interest in riskier investments, but investors right now are worried that as economies reopen, interest rates may rise sooner than expected.

A rocky start to US-China talks in Alaska might also be weighing on markets, according to Halley.

The two sides traded barbs after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned of need to respect the global order. The Chinese eventually accused the US delegation of being “condescending” in tone, while a US official said the representatives from Beijing seemed “intent on grandstanding.”

“To summarise, ‘China isn’t happy,’ so business as usual,” Halley wrote. “Any improved trade premium has vanished from mainland China stock markets today, and reproachment between the two superpowers looks as distant as ever.”

US futures rose Friday. Dow futures were up 48 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures were up 0.3%, while Nasdaq futures advanced 0.7%.

— Julia Horowitz and Anneken Tappe contributed to this report.

Article Topic Follows: Money

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