Asia’s stock markets slipped on Friday, following the steepest Wall Street selloff since June, while safer bonds and the dollar found support as investors sought shelter.
FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), is reflected in a screen displaying NASDAQ movements outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Edgard GarridoMSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6%. Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1.3% while markets in Sydney and Seoul fell 2%.
The moves are more muted than the 5% plunge on the tech-heavy Nasdaq overnight, or the S&P 500’s 3.5% drop, which traders said was overdue given recent frothy gains.
But investors are worried the fall might turn into a deeper rout, with a crucial U.S. payrolls report due later on Friday seen as possible selling trigger if it disappoints.
After-hours trade in U.S. tech companies pointed to further pressure and futures dropped, with S&P 500 futures down 0.4% early in Asia and Nasdaq 100 futures down 1.2%.
“No single factor sparked the sell-off, rather it seemed to be an accumulation of worries about the rally in the tech sector, overcrowding and rising valuations,” said Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
“However, his is unlikely to be a repeat of the tech wreck of the late 1990s, given how much the market and sector have changed,” he added.
The tumble was the biggest one-day percentage drop on the tech-focused Nasdaq 100 since March, while the broader Nasdaq, S&P 500 and Dow Jones indexes fell by their most since June and the darling stocks of recent months were hit hardest.
Apple fell 8%, Tesla 9% and Microsoft 6%.
Still, the plunge only wound the Nasdaq’s level back as far as where it sat last Tuesday. It is still up 28% for the year so far and 73% higher than its March trough.
“Now the question is whether the correction has legs or whether investors are tempted back in,” said Rodrigo Catril of National Australia Bank in Sydney.
More muted selling in Asia also focused on tech names with the sector leading losers on the Nikkei and chip makers falling in Korea. SK Hynix dropped 2% and Samsung 1.7%.
The mood drove only modest moves in the currency market, with the dollar extending its recent bounce a little to put it on track for its best week since June.
The risk-sensitive Australian dollar fell 0.1% to a one-week low of $0.7251, while the New Zealand dollar also slipped and the safe-haven yen steadied. The yen last stood at 106.21 per dollar.
The euro has steadied after several days of selling and held at $1.1850.
Bonds held gains with the yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. debt at 0.6364%, down from a 2-1/2 month peak of 0.7890% touched in late August.
Oil was under pressure and tracked back toward overnight lows amid worries about U.S. demand. Brent crude futures dipped 0.5% to $43.83 a barrel while U.S. crude futures fell 0.7% to $41.09 a barrel.
Gold was steady at $1,933.28.