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Tech rout roils Asian shares, oil futures extend slump

Filed on September 9, 2020
covid, vaccine, astrazeneca, oxford

(Reuters file)

The British pound fell to six-week lows against both the dollar and the euro.

Asian shares fell on Wednesday and oil prices hit lows not seen since June after a rout of technology shares sank Wall Street for a third consecutive day and a major drugmaker delayed testing of a coronavirus vaccine.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1.12per cent.

Australian stocks dropped 2.24per cent, while shares in China fell 1.16per cent.
Japan's Nikkei skidded by 1.69per cent.

US S&P 500 E-mini stock futures fell 0.01per cent, but Nasdaq futures rose 0.72per cent.

Sentiment for equities and other risky assets also took a hit after AstraZeneca Plc paused a late-stage trial of one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.

Treasury yields fell further in Asia as investors sought the safety of holding government debt. Risk aversion also pushed the yen to a one-week high against the dollar.

A sell-off in high-flying US technology shares, fueled partly by concerns about excess purchases of call options, has increased the risk of a larger correction across other markets.

"The performance of Wall Street is going to leave a heavy residue, and most noteworthy is how the tech names dropped down quite aggressively. Investors will take a close note of that," said Tom Piotrowski, a markets analyst at Australian broker CommSec.

"The dramatic fall in oil prices in the last day is being seen as a proxy for global growth expectations. That 7.6per cent fall will certainly be resonating."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2.25per cent, the S&P 500 lost 2.78per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 4.11per cent on Wall Street on Wednesday.

Among US technology names, electric-car maker Tesla plunged 21.06per cent on Tuesday, its biggest daily percentage drop, after it was excluded from a group of companies being added to the S&P 500.

SoftBank Group Corp shares fell 5per cent on Wednesday due to worries about the Japanese conglomerate's trading in call options on US tech stocks.

SoftBank has fallen 12per cent since sources told Reuters and other media late last week that it built up stakes in major US tech companies worth around $4 billion and bought a similar amount of call options for the underlying shares.

Counterparties who sold the call options to SoftBank would have to hedge their exposure by buying the underlying shares, which likely contributed to the Nasdaq and S&P 500 reaching record highs only days ago, some traders say.

US 10-year Treasury yields fell to 0.6722per cent, while the yield curve between two-year and 10-year notes flattened slightly, highlighting declining appetite for risk.

The British pound fell to six-week lows against both the dollar and the euro.

Escalating concerns over Britain leaving the European Union without a trade agreement are weighing on sterling.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies stood near a four-week high as Wall Street's sell-off and renewed fears about Brexit boosted safe-harbour demand for the greenback.

Oil futures extended their sharp decline in Asian trading to the lowest levels since June due to concern about weak global energy demand and excess supply.

Brent fell 0.53per cent to $39.57 a barrel, while US crude lost 0.68per cent to trade at $36.51 per barrel.

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