HONG KONG (AFP, BLOOMBERG) - Asian equities tumbled on Wednesday (Nov 2), extending a global sell-off as a poll showing Donald Trump overtaking market favourite Hillary Clinton in the race for the White House flamed fears about future US economic policy.
With Clinton until last week comfortably ahead, traders were upbeat about her chances of winning on November 8 but news on Friday that the FBI were again looking at her emails has raised the prospect of Trump becoming president.
Trump is viewed as a wildcard, in part because of his harsh criticism of Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen and international trade pacts.
"It was always likely that investors were going to be cautious in the lead-up to next week's election," Ric Spooner, chief market analyst in Sydney at CMC Markets, said in an e-mail to clients.
"However, with polls suggesting that Donald Trump's prospects are improving, that caution is translating into nervousness," he said, according to Bloomberg News.
The news battered markets on Wall Street and in Europe, while the VIX volatility index, which is seen as a measure of the US market's fears, was sitting near levels last seen after Britain voted in June to leave the EU.
Those losses filtered through to Asia, where Tokyo ended the morning 1.4 per cent lower, while Hong Kong dived 1.3 per cent. Sydney and Seoul each sank more than one per cent and there were also losses in Shanghai, Wellington, Manila and Taipei.
Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 0.36 per cent to 2,803.51 at 11am.
Currency traders also took fright, fleeing into the safe-haven yen. The greenback fell to 103.85 yen in Tokyo, down from 104.12 yen in New York and well off the levels of above 105 yen seen on Tuesday.
Analysts say a Trump win could also lead the Federal Reserve - which ends a policy meeting on Wednesday - to put off an expected December interest rate hike owing to worries about his effect on the economy.
"Even if the Fed does signal an inclination to lift rates in December, markets will take the view that this is unlikely if a Trump victory leads to uncertainty and a surge in financial-market volatility," Mr Spooner said.
However, the US dollar was sharply up at 19.25 Mexican pesos from 18.85 pesos on Tuesday. The peso is considered a proxy for Trump's chances owing to his anti-Mexican rhetoric throughout the campaign including his pledge to remove undocumented migrants, build a wall and tear up a trade deal.
The greenback also rallied against higher-yielding, risker Asia-Pacific units, soaring one per cent against the South Korean won and 0.6 per cent versus the Australian dollar.
Gold rose for a fifth day to trade near the highest level in almost a month as investors sought out haven assets. Bullion for immediate delivery gained as much as 0.2 per cent to US$1,290.94 an ounce and was at US$1,290.18 at 9:25am in Singapore.