Asian Shares Skid as Rising US Yields Hit Tech Stocks

By Reuters
January 5, 2022 Updated: January 5, 2022

HONG KONG—Asian stocks fell on Wednesday as higher U.S. Treasury yields weighed on global tech firms and pushed the dollar to a five-year high against Japan’s yen.

U.S. yields rose on Tuesday as bond investors geared up for interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve by mid-year to curb stubbornly high inflation.

The shift in market focus back to prospect for U.S. interest rate hikes has revived a rotation out of growth-sensitive stocks, such as tech firms, into ones that offer income, such as financials and industrials.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1 percent, after hitting a three-week high the day before, while Japan’s Nikkei was little changed.

U.S. stock futures also slipped with S&P 500 e-minis down 0.25 percent and Nasdaq e-minis losing 0.48 percent. European Stoxx 50 futures were flat.

“From Asia’s perspective, it’s a slightly more risk-off tone because it’s one of those days where higher bond yields are a bad thing, as, even though they reflect a stronger U.S. backdrop, they tend to be supportive of the dollar rather than local currencies,” said Rob Carnell, head of Asia Pacific research at ING.

“But it’s pretty choppy, tomorrow we might get back to thinking the higher yields reflect a stronger global backdrop,” Carnell said.

He said declines in the Nasdaq have dragged on Asia’s big tech stocks.

In Japan, Nintendo slipped 1.7 percent and South Korea’s Samsung shed 2.5 percent.

In Hong Kong, tech stocks lost 3.7 percent with added pressure coming from China’s fines on Alibaba, Tencent, and Bilibili.

U.S. shares were mixed on Tuesday with the tech-heavy Nasdaq falling 1.3 percent, although rising yields boosted banks. Industrial names helped the Dow Jones Industrial Average to a record closing high and the S&P 500 to touch an all-time intraday high.

U.S. five-year notes, which reflect rate hike expectations, soared to their highest since February 2020 on Monday, while two-year note yields hit their strongest level since March 2020.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year treasury yields touched a six-week high on Tuesday and were last at 1.6473 percent.

Minutes from the Fed’s December meeting, due at 1900 GMT, could highlight U.S. policymakers’ newfound sensitivity to inflation and their readiness to tighten policy.

“The market is now speculating that a March rate hike is possible when the Fed stops purchasing assets, therefore yields are rising,” said Edison Pun, senior market analyst at Saxo Markets in Hong Kong.

He said he thought declines in tech stocks would be short-lived, while rising yields would help banking stocks.

HSBC’s Hong Kong-listed shares rose 2.3 percent on Wednesday, though Chinese bad debt manager Huarong lost 50 percent as trading resumed after a nine-month suspension, giving investors the chance to revalue the embattled company.

On the mainland, China Mobile gained 3.4 percent on their Shanghai debut on Wednesday after the company raised $7.64 billion in the country’s biggest public share offering in a decade.

In currency markets, the yen was at 116.04 per dollar having dropped to 116.34 overnight, its lowest since March 2017, while the dollar index, which measures the greenback against six peers, was at 96.226, the stronger end of its recent range.

With the Bank of Japan widely expected to be late if not last in the queue to hike rates, the gap between United States and Japanese yields are rising, hurting the yen.

Oil prices were steady having gained in the previous session. Brent crude futures were flat at $79.99 a barrel while U.S. crude futures were at $76.75 a barrel.

Spot gold was at $1,814 an ounce, steady on the day and at the upper end of its recent range.

By Alun John