HONG KONG (Reuters) – Asian shares finished the week heading for their lowest close since November and worst week since February, dragged down by losses in China and extending the sharp falls a day earlier.
Meanwhile the dollar held onto its recent gains sitting at a nine-month high, as traders continued to seek safety in turbulent markets amid fears of slowing growth and a potential easing in U.S. stimulus.
The MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.04%, down 4.8% on he week, its worst week since February.
The Hong Kong benchmark touched its lowest this year, and was last down 2.28% while Chinese blue chips fell 2.4%.
“There are several reasons for the declines, but the main thing is the ongoing regulatory risk. Markets are reacting sharply to regulatory changes or any suggestions in state media that they might be coming,” said Gary Ng, an economist at Natixis in Hong Kong, pointing as an example to falls in alcohol stocks, which are rumoured to be in the authorities’ sights.
Liquour company Kweichow Moutai, one of Asia’s biggest stocks fell 4.18% on Friday.
Hong Kong’s embattled tech sub index dropped 3.57% as state media said China’s National People’s Congress on Friday officially passed a law designed to protect online user data privacy, which is expected to add more compliance requirements for companies in the country.
Recent regulatory crackdowns have smashed stocks from property to tech to education.
South Korea’s Kopsi was also down 0.92%, set for its worst week in seven months.
Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.87% to a seven-month low.
U.S. stock futures, the S&P 500 e-minis, were down 0.17%, and in early European trades, the pan-region Euro Stoxx 50 futures were down 0.02%.
As well as China, markets are also worried about slowing growth in Asia amid outbreaks the Delta variant of the new coronavirus, and also the potential for the United States to begin shrinking its monetary stimulus.
Fan Cheuk Wan, HSBC’s Asia chief investment officer for private banking and wealth management, said markets were now starting to look to for policy responses from Asian governments, both in terms of speeding up vaccination roll outs and policy support from to mitigate the growth risk.
“The Chinese government will likely roll out more measures such as targeted reserve requirement ratio cuts or tax relief or subsidies for small and medium enterprises,” she said, though noted they would likely avoid broad based easing through interest rate cuts.
China as expected left its benchmark lending rate for corporate and household loans unchanged for a 16th straight month at its August fixing on Friday.
The dollar index, which measures the greenback against six rivals, rose as high as 93.597 for the first time since early November, as traders sought safety.
It has also been boosted by widely held expectations the Federal Reserve could still start to taper stimulus this year, and is set to post its strongest weekly gain in two months.
The Fed will hold its annual research conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, next week, where Fed Chair Jerome Powell will o give a speech that will be closely watched.
The Australian dollar sank to a new 9 1/2-month low as a COVID-19 lockdown in Sydney was extended by a month.
Oil prices stabilised after sharp falls earlier in the week. U.S. crude ticked up 0.58% to $64.06 a barrel. Brent crude rose 0.62% to $66.81 per barrel. [O/R]
US Treasuries moved little in Asian hours, The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was 1.238% compared with its U.S. close of 1.242%.
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