Asia stocks set for worst weekly drop in 9 months

Asia stocks set for worst weekly drop in 9 months

Hong Kong: Asian stocks fell more than a percent and were on course for their biggest weekly loss in nine months as investors shunned risk on concerns about the pace of policy tightening in the region and growing tensions in Egypt.

A broad sell-off in Asia since the start of 2011 on inflationary worries has shown no signs of abating, as expectations of more monetary tightening have encouraged investors to shift funds from emerging to developed markets.

Analysts said the selling in emerging markets could have some more room to run, especially in countries where stocks are ripe for a pullback after last year’s stellar gains and the near term interest rate outlook is unclear.

On Friday, Taiwan shares ended down more than two percent, stock markets in Thailand and Korea were down one%, while Australia’s benchmark index snapped a seven-day winning streak a investors took profits from banking and resource shares.

MSCI’s index of Asia Pacific shares-ex-Japan is set to fall by more than 4% this week, its worst performance since May 2010.

So far this year, Asian shares have underperformed the MSCI world index by five points as traders cut positions due to a steady drip of strong data out of the US.

“Pressure on emerging market equities may well, therefore, continue while uncertainties about the intensity, duration and effect of the ongoing tightening cycle remain alive," Barclays strategists said in a weekly note.

This week alone, China raised interest rates, Philippines held rates but raised its inflation forecast and Bank of Korea surprised markets by holding rates steady, although it is widely expected to tighten again in March.

Foreign selling has picked up in Asian shares, especially in South Korea this week while offshore selling in Taiwan on Thursday was the biggest in six months.

Indonesian shares fell 0.6% with shares in PT Garuda Indonesia , the nation’s state-owned carrier, tanking by more than 20% on debut.

Japanese markets were closed for a national holiday.


Copper rose back above $10,000 per tonne, while tin prices hit a record high as strong US jobless data reassured investors about the pace of the recovery in the world’s biggest economy.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s plans to relinquish powers but not step down did little to boost investor hopes of a quick solution to the Egyptian crisis and lifted oil prices .

Gold , was steady at around $1,364 an ounce and US crude oil futures rose 88 cents to $87.61 a barrel. .

In the currency markets, the dollar edged higher after notching up solid gains against the euro overnight and after traders said the European Central Bank stepped in to rescue a failing Portuguese bond auction.

Broad trading patterns in the euro are in line with wave formations and the single currency may be in the initial stages of what may be a decline towards the lower end of a broad 1.3250-1.3850 range.

“Any easy gains in the euro are susceptible to rapid reversal," said David Watt, senior currency strategist at RBC Dominion Securities.

The Australian dollar extended losses after the central bank said interest rates were likely to be on hold for some time.