Asian shares fall on growth anxiety, dollar holds gains

A currency trader passes by screens showing foreign exchange rates at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 16, 2021. Asian shares mostly rose on Tuesday, cheered by a rally to all-time highs on Wall Street, though worries over the slow pace of coronavirus vaccinations in the region were weighing on sentiment.

Asian shares snapped eight successive sessions of gains on Wednesday, as fresh worries about slowing global growth prompted investors to reduce their exposure to riskier assets in a boost to safe-havens such as the U.S. dollar.

In early European trades, FTSE futures were down 0.36%, pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures dropped 0.09%, but U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis , gained 0.10%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) fell 0.50% having stretched its gains in the past eight sessions.

Bucking the regional trend, Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) gained 0.79% to a five-month high helped by revised gross domestic product growth figures beating expectations. L4N2Q90R4

But overall sentiment in Asia mirrored weakness on Wall Street overnight. Australia (.AXJO) slipped 0.35%, Hong Kong (.HSI) shed 0.24% and Chinese blue chips (.CSI300) dropped 0.58%, also weighed down by recent soft data in the world’s second-biggest economy.

Medium-term prospects also continue to weigh on shares in Asia. The MSCI regional benchmark is still well off all-time highs, unlike equity markets in the U.S. and Europe.

“The Asia Pacific region – following a zero-tolerance (coronavirus) pandemic policy and reliant on exports for growth – could underperform as global demand for goods softens and social distancing restrictions in many APAC cities are reimposed,” said David Chao, Global Market Strategist, Asia Pacific (ex-Japan) at Invesco

“This, coupled with the region’s much lower vaccination rate, could lead to a continued cycle of lockdown and releases.”

Overnight the MSCI world equity index (.MIWD00000PUS) retreated from a record high after seven consecutive days of gains.

U.S. shares had slipped, said analysts at ANZ in a note, on concerns that the U.S. economy may be starting to slow following the weaker-than-expected jobs data, while in Europe markets are focused on whether the European Central Bank will begin to scale back its bond purchase programme.

The dollar was fairly steady in Asian trading, holding onto its overnight gains against a basket of its peers having risen from near a five week-low alongside benchmark U.S. treasury yields.

Yields on 10-year Treasury notes were last at 1.3749% compared to a U.S. close of 1.371% on Tuesday, down from an eight-week high of 1.385% earlier in the day.

Higher yields had hurt non-interest-bearing gold overnight, but the spot price gained 0.16% on Wednesday to $1796.89 per ounce in line with the risk-averse mood, edging back towards $1800 having fallen below the level in the previous session.

Bitcoin paused for breath after plunging 17% on Monday to a low of around $43,000 before recovering. It was last at $46,300, down a more modest 1.24%.

U.S. crude oil meanwhile ticked up 0.5% to $68.59 a barrel as Brent crude gained 0.31% to $71.94 per barrel, with prices supported by a slow production restart in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico after Hurricane Ida hit the region.

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