Asian shares extended losses on Friday following reports North Korea had conducted a nuclear test, while global stocks and bonds slid on uncertainty over the prospect of further easing from the European Central Bank after it left policy unchanged.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.6 per cent after touching a 13-month high on Thursday, mirroring the slide in the MSCI’s all-country world index. The declines shrank gains for the week to 2.3 per cent.
ECB President Mario Draghi, speaking after the central bank kept its policy on hold as expected on Thursday, said the ECB was looking at options to continue its money-printing programme, but maintained the March end-date for asset purchases.
That disappointed investors who were looking for more immediate action, including an extension or expansion of the current plan, or at least clearer hints of future actions.
“President Draghi’s comment that an extension of the current quantitative easing programme was not discussed led to a hawkish market interpretation of the meeting,” Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney, wrote in a note.
However, inflation levels that remain below target and various other dovish comments from Draghi “indicate that an extension of the quantitative easing programme beyond its March 2017 expiry at its December meeting is likely,” Oliver added.
Japan’s Nikkei erased gains to trade 0.2 per cent lower, heading for a flat end to the week, after seismic activity triggered by the suspected North Korean nuclear test.
South Korea’s KOSPI also extended losses on the suspected activity. After opening 0.7 per cent lower, it was last trading down 1.3 per cent from Thursday’s close.
China’s CSI 300 index was 0.1 per cent lower, and the Shanghai Composite was little changed. They are set for gains of 0.7 per cent and 1 per cent, respectively, for the week.
China’s consumer price inflation slowed to its weakest pace in almost a year in August, missing expectations.
Still, moderating declines in the producer price index added to recent evidence of a steadying economy.
That evidence came from data on Thursday showing China’s imports rose unexpectedly in August for the first time in nearly two years, suggesting domestic demand may be picking up. Exports also showed signs of improvement, falling less than expected.
Hong Kong was the sole gainer among major Asian markets, with shares up 0.9 per cent, extending their weekly advance to 3.5 per cent. The market has been buoyed by inflows from China as investors bet on gains ahead of the launch of a new cross-border share link.
Overnight on Wall Street, the S&P 500 lost 0.22 per cent, weighed down by a 2.6 per cent fall in Apple on disappointment over its latest iPhone, though gains in energy shares offset losses in most other sectors.
German shares bore the brunt of that let-down but shares in Southern Europe gained.
Global bond markets also took a hit with the 10-year German Bund yield rising to minus 0.055 per cent from minus 0.118 per cent on Wednesday.
US bond yields also jumped, with the 30-year bond yield rising to one-month highs of 2.328 per cent on Thursday. They pulled back slightly to trade at 2.2985 on Friday.
The euro climbed to $1.1328, its highest since Aug. 26, following the ECB meeting before giving up most of its gains to stabilise around $1.1276. It is set for a 1.1 per cent rise this week.
The dollar retreated 0.4 per cent to 102.10 yen, surrendering some of Thursday’s gains resulting from the wider gap between US and Japanese bond yields. It is poised to end the week 1.8 per cent weaker.
With the ECB meeting out of the way, the focus now shifts back to the Fed’s policy meeting later this month.
“A rate hike in September is highly unlikely,” said Hiroko Iwaki, senior bond strategist at Mizuho Securities.
“But unless the Fed sends a message, it will be difficult for them to make the markets price in a rate hike by the end of the year. So they could say something like they will consider a hike in coming months,” she said.
Oil prices pulled back after surging more than 4 per cent on Thursday to two-week highs, after a slump in U.S. Gulf Coast imports to a record low led to a surprisingly large drawdown in U.S. crude stocks.
Brent rose to as high as $50.14 per barrel on Thursday. It pulled back 0.9 per cent to $49.53, still up 5.8 per cent this week.
US crude climbed as high as $47.75 on Thursday. It retreated 0.9 per cent to $47.21, but remained on track for a 6.3 per cent advance for the week.
The weakness in the US dollar this week has offered gold a boost. Spot gold has risen 1 per cent to $1,338.47 this week.