Asian stocks drop following Wall Street’s wild ride

Stocks across Asia-Pacific fell sharply after a day of wild swings on Wall Street, where shares pulled back from losses as the US central bank chief signalled no immediate plans to alter ultra-loose monetary policy.

Tokyo’s Topix index dropped 1.2 per cent as trading resumed following Tuesday’s holiday in Japan, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 1 per cent and China’s CSI 300 of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks shed 2.1 per cent.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng dropped 2 per cent as shares in Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing, the city’s bourse operator, fell as much as 9.3 per cent after local media reported that the territory would raise its stamp duty on equity trading. The article was later removed but HKEX shares finished the morning session down more than 5 per cent.

In currencies, sterling rose 0.3 per cent against the dollar to $1.4157 following reports that Rishi Sunak, the UK chancellor, could extend a stamp duty holiday for property transactions by another three months. The UK currency is trading at its highest level since April 2018.

Overnight in the US, the benchmark S&P 500 and the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite fell as much as 1.8 and 3.9 per cent, respectively, before recouping losses following comments by Jay Powell, the Federal Reserve chair. The S&P 500 ended the session up 0.1 per cent and the Nasdaq down 0.5 per cent.

Powell told the Senate banking committee on Tuesday that the Fed intended to maintain heavy support for America’s pandemic-battered economy.

“In recent weeks, the number of new cases and hospitalisations has been falling, and ongoing vaccinations offer hope for a return to more normal conditions later this year,” he said. “However, the economic recovery remains uneven and far from complete, and the path ahead is highly uncertain.”

Stock futures for the S&P 500 and London’s FTSE 100 were 0.2 and 0.3 per cent lower in Asian trading on Wednesday, respectively.

Sovereign bond markets were little moved, with the 10-year US Treasury yield flat at 1.35 per cent. The 10-year yield has risen 0.4 percentage points this year as rising inflation expectations have stoked concerns that the Fed could raise rates sooner than expected. Yields rise when bond prices fall.

Oil prices fell with Brent crude, the international benchmark, down 0.5 per cent to $65.03 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, fell by 0.9 per cent to $61.13 a barrel.

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