Asian shares buckle as tech firms come under more scrutiny


—Photo by Reuters

TOKYO: Asian shares pulled back on Wednesday as Wall Street was knocked hard on concerns about tighter regulations on the tech industry, denting a brief global equities recovery driven by hopes of easing fears of a trade war between China and the United States.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 0.4 percent, with tech-heavy Korean shares .KS11 falling 1.0 percent. Japan’s Nikkei .N225 fell 2.1 percent.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.73 percent and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 2.93 percent, making their fourth decline in five sessions.

The tech sector .SPLRCT were the worst hit as the industry came under more scrutiny, led by a 4.9 percent fall in Facebook (FB.O), which has been embroiled in a scandal over the use of data by political consultants.

Nvidia (NVDA.O) was another weak spot, falling 7.8 percent after the chipmaker temporarily suspended self-driving tests across the globe after an Uber Technologies Inc UBER.UL autonomous vehicle killed a woman.

“There is a sense that there will be more regulations on Facebook or FANG and that the cost of compliance will increase,” said Nobuhiko Kuramochi, chief strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Concerns about trade frictions between China and the United States also remain a drag even after reports of behind-the-scenes talks between Washington and Beijing spurred optimism that U.S. President Donald Trump’s protectionist shift is more about gaining leverage in trade talks than isolating the world’s biggest economy with tariff barriers.

In the currency market, the dollar changed hands at 105.39 yen JPY=, not far from Monday’s 16-1/2-month low of 104.56, as the Japanese currency was supported by the risk-averse mood.

The euro lost steam after soft euro zone economic data and comments from European Central Bank policymakers flagging low underlying inflation.

Economic sentiment in the 19-countries sharing the euro slipped for the third month in a row in March while bank lending slowed.

Erkki Liikanen, ECB Governing Council member, said that underlying inflation in the euro zone may remain lower than expected even if growth is robust, so the central bank needs to remain patient in removing stimulus.

Another member, Jozef Makuch from Slovakia, also struck a similarly cautious tone.

The euro EUR= traded at $1.2407, off a three-week high of $1.24765 hit on Tuesday.

Germany’s 10-year Bund yield DE10YT=TWEB hit two-month low of 0.500 percent, having taken a downward shift since hitting a 1-1/2-year high of 0.795 percent in Feb. 15.

The 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield US10YT=RR also dropped to 2.770 percent, its lowest level in seven weeks. The two-year yield US2YT=RR stood at 2.270 percent.

Oil prices stepped back on a larger-than-expected rise in U.S. oil inventories data from industry group American Petroleum Institute (API) published late on Tuesday.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 traded 0.6 percent lower at $69.70 per barrel, off Monday’s high of $71.05, which was its highest since late January. —AFP