Asian markets rebound on bargain-buying but tech worries linger

Agence France-Presse
Asian markets rebound on bargain-buying but tech worries linger
A bicycle rider passes an electronic quotation board displaying share prices of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (2nd L) and numbers of Asian markets in Tokyo on September 17, 2020.
AFP / Kazuhiro Nogi

HONG KONG, China — Asian equities edged higher Tuesday after recent losses as investors ignored another tough day for tech titans on Wall Street that has raised concerns about a correction in markets following a string of record highs.

Investors are also keeping tabs on Tokyo after Japan's top currency official warned authorities were ready 24 hours a day to intervene to support the yen as it sits around three-decade lows against the dollar.

With US data indicating the world's top economy remains in rude health and the jobs market still tight, investors remain unsure about the Federal Reserve's plans for interest rates, with debate centred on when -- or even if -- it will cut this year.

The focus is now on the release Friday of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index -- the Fed's favoured inflation gauge -- with traders hoping for another slowdown that would give decision-makers room to start loosening policy.

Uncertainty surrounding rates has done little to hold back US equities as a blistering surge in tech giants -- fuelled by an explosion in all things linked to artificial intelligence -- has helped push the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to multiple records this year.

However, profit-taking and worries that the rally has gone too far has started to weigh on the sector, with the latest market darling Nvidia leading the losses by diving more than 15 percent from its high touched on Thursday.

The firm had briefly become the world's biggest publicly listed firm two days earlier, with a market capitalisation of more than $3.3 trillion.

The recent sell-off has led to fears of a contagion setting in, sending stocks into a downward spiral.

Still, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq retreated Monday, Asia enjoyed a positive start.

Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore and Manila were all in the green, though Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta inched down.

The yen strengthened, having edged close to 160 to the dollar Monday on fading expectations for a US rate cut any time soon and the Bank of Japan's slow pace of tightening.

The unit's weakness led vice finance minister Masato Kanda to reiterate officials' determination to step in with support, having done so in April after the currency hit 160.17 to the greenback.

However, some observers warn that the yen could fall to 170 as they say the impact of any intervention is usually short-lived.

"The pair continues to find resistance around the big (160 per dollar) figure with Japanese officials increasing verbal intervention," said National Australia Bank's Rodrigo Catril.

He added that the BoJ had left many investors disappointed this month when it delayed cutting back its bond-buying activities, which are used to keep borrowing costs down.

"After the BoJ failed to deliver... the market has been encouraged to increase the pressure on the yen given a BoJ too slow on its policy-normalisation process while the Fed stays higher for longer, waiting for the inflation data to make the case for easing."

The euro held its own against the dollar ahead of the first round of French elections this weekend.

President Emmanuel Macron called the snap legislative polls after his centrist party was trounced by the far-right National Rally (RN) in European Parliament elections two weeks ago.

The unit remains supported even as some opinion polls show the RN leading, with a left-wing alliance in second and Macron's centrists third.

Key figures around 0250 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.5 percent at 39,001.39 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.5 percent at 18,120.43

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.1 percent at 2,965.17

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 159.36 yen from 159.63 yen on Monday

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0734 from $1.0740

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.59 pence from 84.61 pence

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2685 from $1.2689

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 percent at $81.70 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: UP 0.1 percent at $86.07 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.7 percent at 39,411.21 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.5 percent at 8,281.55 (close)

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