Hong Kong: Stocks in Asia tumbled on Friday, hurt by weak technology and resources shares and fresh worries about Greece’s debt levels, which dragged the euro to a six-month low against the dollar.
However, leading European shares were expected to inch higher, halting the market’s worst sell-off in a year, despite mounting worries about weak euro zone members.
US stock futures pointed to a slightly weaker open after key Wall Street indexes fell by up to 1.9% overnight as poor earnings and outlooks from Motorola and Qualcomm dented optimism in the tech sector.
A massive recall of millions of vehicles by the world’s top automaker Toyota Motor Corp added to concerns about corporate earnings, while falling commodity prices hurt miners such as BHP Billiton Ltd
Samsung Electronics, the world’s top maker of memory chips and LCD screens, failed to lift the gloom despite its forecast-beating earnings as Asian shares head for their worst monthly decline since January 2009.
Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan as measured by MSCI fell 2% to a 2-month low, with the materials index down 3.4% and the technology index off 1.8%.
Concerns over public finances in Greece and Portugal pulled the euro down to a six-month low against the dollar and a nine-month low versus the yen, a trend which has gained momentum as investors cut risky trades which had been funded by borrowing in the yen and dollar.
Investors have also been nagged this week by fears that the global economic recovery may be losing momentum, China’s steps to cool its surging economy and political and regulatory wrangling in Washington.
“There is a general adjustment going on in risk appetite and risk sensitivity,” said Peter Redward, head of Emerging Asia Research, Barclays Capital.
But he said the recent drop has been orderly and the sell-off has been notable because of the absence of panic.
“It shows there hasn’t been a lot of large option-related, speculative position building. There isn’t a lot of gamma floating around in terms of equities or fx,” he added, referring to derivatives instruments which when triggered can lead to accelerated selling.
According to data from fund tracker EPFR Global, emerging markets equity funds saw their first week of net outflows in the period ended Jan. 27 after 11 weeks of inflows as investors pared back their exposure amid fears of slowing growth in China, where authorities are reining in bank lending.
equity funds saw their biggest weekly outflow since late June while European equity finds suffered net redemptions for the third week in five, the data showed. But bond funds saw inflows, particularly emerging market local currency-denominated bonds.
The recent strength of the yen currency also hammered Japanese stocks, which received a further setback after Toyota announced it would extend to Europe and China a recall of millions of vehicles due to faulty accelerator pedals and floor mats.
Japan’s Nikkei average fell 2% to a six-week closing low, hurt by negative earnings surprise from chip equipment maker Advantest Corp which came after Nippon Steel Corp’s warned of a first annual net loss in seven years. Advantest shares tumbled more than 10%.
Toyota fell 2%, bringing its losses this week to around 14%.
But analysts said broader market selling appeared to be largely driven by short-term investors, and funds with a longer-term horizon remained upbeat on the region’s fundamentals.
“Some markets are quite oversold at the moment -- the 12 month fundamentals for economies and earning are likely to be reasonably good,” said Khiem Do, head of the Asia multi-asset group at Baring Asset Management, which oversees $50 billion.
“Prices are getting cheaper as a result of the liquidation of trading position. Our view is positive over next 6-12 months.”
Currencies linked to global growth such as the Australian dollar and the New Zealand dollar fell to multi-week lows as investors moved out of higher-risk assets and on caution ahead of fourth-quarter GDP data to be released later on Friday at 7:00pm.
Even though data on Thursday showed durable goods orders rose and jobless claims fell in the world’s largest economy, analysts are wary it is not a strong recovery.
Mixed economic data from the world’s other leading economies also continues to keep investors cautious.
After Japan’s better-than-expected export growth earlier this week, data released on Friday showed the economy was in the grips of deflation with core consumer prices marking their tenth straight month of decline.
In commodities markets, crude oil looked set for a possible fourth day of losses sparked by forecasts of tepid oil demand in rich industrialised nations. crude futures eased 20 cents to $73.44 a barrel.
A firm dollar and concern over the pace and scope of credit tightening in China drove Shanghai copper down 3.5%, following a drop in London prices in the previous session.