Asia shares flat amid U.S. tech retreat

by Jonathan Adams
Asia shares

Holidays in Japan, China and South Korea limited the early reaction, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dithered

Asian shares risked falling for a fourth straight session on Wednesday as sentiment took a knock from a selloff in large cap Wall Street tech favourites, combined with talk of rising U.S. interest rates.

Holidays in Japan, China and South Korea limited the early reaction, leaving MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dithering either side of flat.

Japan’s Nikkei was shut, but futures traded lower at 28,735 compared to the last cash close of 28,812.

Nasdaq futures steadied after a sharp pullback overnight, while S&P 500 futures edged up 0.1%.

The Nasdaq had dropped 1.9% on Tuesday as some big tech names ran into profit-taking, including Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Stretched valuations were tested when U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said rate hikes may be needed to stop the economy overheating. She later waked back the comments, but it reminded investors that rates would have to rise at some point in the future.

Moderate inflation and a slow moving Fed would continue to be supportive, but inflation and a reactive Fed may prove to be a negative for valuations, said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.

Either way yields and equities are likely to be in a dance as much better than expected economic data continues to challenge central banks’ rates guidance, Strickland said.

One such challenge looms on Friday when U.S. payrolls data are forecast to show a hefty rise of 978,000, while some estimates go as high as 2.1 million.

So far, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has argued the labour market is still far short of where it needs to be to start talking of tapering asset buying.

Minneapolis Fed Bank President Neel Kashkari on Tuesday said it may take a few years for the economy to get back to full employment. Fed’s dogged patience allowed yields on U.S. 10-year notes to ease back to 1.59%, from last week’s top of 1.69%, though the market has struggled to break below 1.53%.

Just the mention of higher U.S. rates was enough to help the dollar recoup a little of its recent losses.

The euro dropped back to $1.2015 and threatened to breach important chart support in the $1.1995/1.2000 area. A break would open the way to a retracement target at $1.1923.

The dollar was a bit stronger on the yen at 109.36, but faces resistance at 109.61. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar inched up to 91.282 and away from a recent two-month low of 90.422.

The New Zealand dollar edged up to $0.7160 when local jobs data proved strong than expected.



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