Asian share markets slipped on Friday after a spike in global bond yields soured sentiment toward richly priced tech stocks, while a stampede out of crowded positions may have put an end to the bull run in crude oil.
Having plunged 7% overnight, Brent crude futures managed a feeble bounce of just 11 cents to $63.39 a barrel, while U.S. crude added 6 cents to $60.06. [O/R]
The retreat wiped out four weeks of gains in a single session amid worries world demand would fall short of high expectations.
Markets were also unsettled by the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) decision to slightly widen the target band for 10-year yields and tweak its buying of assets.
The bank portrayed the changes as a “nimble” way to make easing more sustainable, though investors seemed to take it as a step back from all-out stimulus.
A decision to confine purchases to only TOPIX-linked ETFs knocked the Nikkei down 1.6%, while South Korea lost 1%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan followed with a fall of 1.5%.
Chinese blue chips shed 1.9%, perhaps unnerved by a fiery exchange between Chinese and U.S. diplomats at the first in-person talks of the Biden era.
Nasdaq futures went flat, after a sharp 3% drop overnight, while S&P 500 futures added 0.1%. European futures followed the overnight fall with the EUROSTOXX 50 off 0.8% and FTSE futures 0.6%.
Investors are still reflecting on the U.S. Federal Reserve’s pledge to keep rates near zero out to 2024 even as it lifted forecasts for economic growth and inflation.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell seems likely to drive home the dovish message next week with no less than three appearances lined up.
“Stronger growth and higher inflation but no rate hikes is a potent cocktail for risk assets and equity markets,” said Nomura economist Andrew Ticehurst.
“The message for bonds is more mixed: while the anchoring of the short end is a positive, market participants may come to worry that the forecast rise in inflation might not be temporary and that the Fed risks ‘overcooking it’.”
Yields on U.S. 10-year notes spiked to the highest since early 2020 at 1.754% and were last at 1.71%. If sustained, this would be the seventh straight week of increases worth a huge 64 basis points in total.
The drastic bearish steepening of the yield curve reflects the risk the Fed is serious about keeping short-term rates low until inflation accelerates, so requiring longer-term bonds to offer fatter returns to compensate.
The latest BofA survey of investors showed that rising inflation and the bond “taper tantrum” had replaced COVID-19 as their number one risk.
While still very bullish on economic growth, company earnings and stocks, respondents feared a sharp setback for equities should 10-year yields cross 2%.
The jump in Treasury yields provided some support to the U.S. dollar, though analysts fret that faster U.S. economic growth will also widen the current account deficit to levels that will ultimately drag on the currency.
For now, the dollar index had bounced to 91.853, from a low of 91.30 to leave it slightly firmer for the week.
It steadied on the low-yielding yen at 108.91, just off the recent 10-month top of 109.36. The euro eased back to $1.1914, having repeatedly failed to crack resistance at $1.1990/1.2000.
The rise in yields has weighed on gold, which offers no fixed return, and left it down 0.2% at $1,731 an ounce.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast.