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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Stocks firm, shrug off tech rout scare and Sino-US tensions

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4%. Japan's Nikkei added 0.8%, even as revised data confirmed the nation had slumped into its worst postwar contraction, with business spending taking a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than initially estimated.

By: Reuters | Hong Kong, Tokyo | September 8, 2020 12:58:35 pm
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index and currency exchange rate at a securities firm in Tokyo Friday, July 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Asian shares gained on Tuesday following a small bounce in European markets and shrugging off concerns over the latest US-China tensions, as investors looked to whether high-flying US tech shares could recover from their recent rout.

European markets appeared set for a higher open with both Euro Stoxx 50 futures and FTSE futures up 0.3%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.4%. Japan’s Nikkei added 0.8%, even as revised data confirmed the nation had slumped into its worst postwar contraction, with business spending taking a bigger hit from the coronavirus pandemic than initially estimated.

Shares in mainland China and Hong Kong managed to erase early losses made after President Donald Trump on Monday ramped up his anti-Chinese rhetoric by again raising the idea of de-coupling the US and Chinese economies.

“While it’s impossible and unrealistic to decouple for the two countries, his remarks would weigh on investor sentiment and increase market risks,” said Hong Hao, head of research at BoCom International.

China’s blue-chip index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively. The newly launched Hang Seng tech index fell 1.1%.

Trump’s remarks followed the possible US blacklisting of China’s largest chip maker, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), which has hit many Chinese tech firms listed onshore and offshore.

“That would remain a big overhang on several Chinese tech companies,” Hong said. “The market cannot digest the news in just one to two days.

“US financial markets were shut on Monday for a public holiday while globally traded US S&P500 futures erased their Monday losses to trade 0.5% higher. Tech shares remained more fragile, however, with Nasdaq futures trading around flat after having lost more than 6% late last week.

While many market players were unable to pinpoint a single trigger for the Nasdaq’s sudden plunge, valuations have been stretched given its sharp 75% gain from a bottom hit in March.

“Those tech shares were becoming expensive so I would see their latest fall as a healthy correction,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management.

Risk assets also face headwinds from creeping doubts that US policymakers may not be willing to compile massive stimulus as some traders had hoped for.

“The headline figures from Friday’s US jobs data were pretty good, so that could lead to speculation policymakers may no longer be eager to dole out trillions of dollars to support the economy,” said Masahiko Loo, portfolio manager at AllianceBernstein.

The 10-year US Treasuries yield stood at 0.710%, off a five-month low of 0.504% touched in August.In currencies, sterling dropped after the European Union told Britain on Monday that there would be no trade deal if it tried to tinker with the Brexit divorce treaty.

The warning came after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was reported to be planning new legislation to override parts of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement it signed in January.

The pound last fetched $1.3152, having lost 0.80% on Monday to $1.3167, near its lowest levels in two weeks.

Other currencies barely moved with rises in US yields helping to stem the dollar’s recent weakness.

The euro eased slightly overnight to $1.1818 and was last trading at $1.1816, while the dollar was little moved at 106.21 yen.

Gold prices eased on Tuesday, although rising doubts over the economic recovery from the COVID-19 slump limited losses. Spot gold was up 0.2% at $1,933.43 per ounce.

Oil prices dropped to five-week lows after Saudi Arabia made its deepest monthly price cuts to supply for Asia in five months and as uncertainty over Chinese demand clouds the market’s recovery.

US crude futures fell 1.8% to $39.06 per barrel.

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