Stocks dive on surging inflation, Ukraine risks; China markets slump

A visitor wearing protective face mask, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, walks past in front of a stock quotation board outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan March 2, 2020. REUTERS / Issei Kato / Files

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  • > Asian stock markets:
  • Asia follows US, European stocks lower
  • Hong Kong down 3.7%, Nikkei off 2.4%
  • South Korean, Australian benchmark stock indexes also down

TOKYO, March 11 (Reuters) – Asian shares extended a global slump on Friday after the fastest US inflation in four decades bolstered expectations for more aggressive rate hikes, and as Chinese equity markets slumped over regulatory concerns of US-listed mainland firms.

Sentiment also suffered on worries over Russia’s war against Ukraine, after talks between their foreign ministers on Thursday brought little respite in the conflict between the two countries.

“We’ve got a terrible macro backdrop (with) a serious inflation problem implying that we’re going to see much, much tighter monetary policy,” said Rob Carnell, chief economist at ING in Singapore.

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Russia’s war against Ukraine was likely to make everything from energy and metals to agricultural goods a lot more expensive, Carnell added.

“Everybody’s incomes are going to get eroded. Global growth is going to get battered. What more do you need?

“At some stage you will probably pull back much more sharply, but at the moment there’s still a bit of denial going on in markets.”

The United States, together with the Group of Seven nations and the European Union, will move on Friday to revoke Russia’s “most favored nation” status over its invasion of Ukraine, multiple people familiar with the situation told Reuters.

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Stripping Russia of its favored nation status paves the way for the United States and its allies to impose tariffs on a wide range of Russian goods, which would further ratchet up pressure on an economy that is already heading into a “deep recession.” read more

By mid-afternoon, MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) had skidded 2.0%, after a retreat on Wall Street spilled over on many of the region’s country benchmarks, which turned deeply red.

Sellers swarmed Hong Kong’s equity market after US-listed Chinese stocks tumbled following the naming of the first Chinese firms to be potentially de-listed in the United States.

The Hang Seng index (.HIS) slumped 3.7%, with the shares of Yum China (9987.HK), and four other firms taking a beating after the companies were embroiled in an auditing dispute between Beijing and Washington. read more

The sell-off in Chinese shares came even as the country’s securities regulator said on Friday it was confident it will reach an agreement with US counterparts on securities supervision. read more

Outside Hong Kong, the losses in Chinese shares were smaller, with the country’s blue-chip index (.CSI300) down 2.6%.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) lost 2.4%, while South Korean shares (.KS11) shed 1.1% and Australian shares (.AXJO) dropped 0.9%.

US consumer inflation jumped an annualized 7.9% in February, the largest increase in 40 years, data showed on Thursday. The surge implied the FOMC could move “more aggressively” to curb inflation, as promised by Fed Chair Jerome Powell last week. read more

Markets are already expecting the Federal Reserve to raise its Fed funds target rate by 25 basis points at the conclusion of next week’s monetary policy meeting.

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Expectations of tighter monetary policy were also fueled by a hawkish tone from the European Central Bank, which said on Thursday it will stop bond-buying in the third quarter. read more

“The ECB meeting was clearly more hawkish than expected,” said Chris Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.

“We see 11 basis points of hikes priced into EU rates by the July ECB meeting.”

In the currency market, the euro was 0.12% higher at $ 1.0994, as the hawkish tone from the ECB failed to boost momentum for the single currency substantially.

“The ECB gave more clarity to their stimulus exit plans, but it’s unlikely to give the euro a sustained lift, not while the Russia-Ukraine conflict is ongoing,” said analysts at Westpac in a morning note.

The yen eased to its weakest level against the dollar since January 2017 at 116.72 per dollar.

The dollar index (.DXY) held steady at 98.561, below a more than 1-1 / 2 year high of 99.418 hit on Monday.

In the bond market, yields on 10-year US Treasury notes were at 1.9794%, while Japan’s 10-year government bond yield was at 0.185%.

In commodity markets, US crude was up 0.2% at $ 106.26 a barrel. Brent crude was largely flat at $ 109.23 per barrel.

Gold was down about half a percent. Spot gold was traded at $ 1,986.47 per ounce.

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Reporting by Daniel Leussink in Tokyo Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Kim Coghill

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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