Asian stocks were little changed on Friday, as investors searched for catalysts in the wake of a resumption of the US technology rout overnight. The Japanese yen remained near a two-week low against the dollar after the Bank of Japan left monetary policy unchanged as expected even as its U.S. counterpart signaled further tightening. It was trading 0.2 percent lower at 111.14 yen per dollar after the BOJ left in place its program to buy Japanese government bonds, and kept its short-term interest rate target at minus 0.1 percent and its 10-year government bond yield target at around zero percent.
As expected, the central bank offered a more upbeat view on private consumption and overseas economies, signalling its confidence that the recovery was gaining momentum. Japan’s Nikkei remained up 0.5 percent, narrowing its loss for the week to 0.4 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was steady, on track to end the week down 0.7 percent.
Overnight, the Nasdaq led losses on Wall Street with a 0.5 percent drop, dragged lower by shares including Apple and Alphabet that tumbled on bearish analysts’ reports. The S&P 500 technology index also declined 0.5 percent. The broader S&P 500 index fell 0.2 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 percent. “It was a brutal day for the tech sector once again as investors are increasingly more worried about the (Federal Reserve) tightening cycle and how that would put a number of firms in trouble,” Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at ThinkMarkets in London, wrote in a note.
“The tech boom has been on the back of easy money and lower interest rates. Both of them are leaving town.” South Korea’s KOSPI slipped about 0.1 percent, surrendering earlier gains. The biggest company, Samsung Electronics was little changed. The second biggest firm, semiconductor concern SK Hynix , hit a 15-year high before pulling back to trade 0.3 percent lower.
The technology-heavy Taiwan index gained 0.1 percent, with the biggest companies, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. and Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry both trading higher. “This is long overdue… There’s a clear discrepancy, where Asia and emerging market tech names are still being discounted compared to their western counterparts,” said Kay Van-Petersen, global macro strategist at Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.
“Historically that made sense, but politically, things are potentially a lot more stable in Asia than in developed markets as a whole.” The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of trade-weighted peers, remained near a two-week high hit overnight after data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment fell more than expected last week. A better-than-expected business conditions survey for June also bolstered the case for Federal Reserve tightening this year.
The index inched up to 97.484, extending Thursday’s 0.5 percent gain. It’s on track for a 0.2 percent rise this week. “There is certainly an elevated risk (USD outperformance) materialises and if trading is, by and large, a play on probability I would be looking at USD longs with increased convictions,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note. On Wednesday, the Fed raised interest rates as widely expected, and also released some preliminary details of its plan to begin paring its $4 trillion-plus debt holdings.
Sterling added 0.1 percent to $1.2777. On Thursday, it jumped to as high as $1.2795 on signs of a shift in the Bank of England’s stance on keeping interest rates at record lows. But it fell back to close flat, as monetary policy uncertainty added to existing concerns about Britain’s political outlook after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to win a parliamentary majority in last week’s election. In commodities, oil was subdued on continued worries over rising U.S. gasoline inventories adding to already elevated global supply.
U.S. crude fell 0.1 percent to $44.43 a barrel, remaining near Thursday’s six-week low, on track for a 3.1 percent drop for the week. Global benchmark Brent was steady at $46.92, set to end the week 2.6 percent lower. The dollar’s strength was a drag on gold, which fell 0.1 percent to $1,251.80 an ounce, extending Thursday’s 0.6 percent drop. It is poised to close the week with a 1.1 percent loss, its second weekly drop.