Asian shares skid as commodities revisit 6-year lows, STI down 0.9%

Pedestrians walk past a share prices board in Tokyo.
Pedestrians walk past a share prices board in Tokyo. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Asian shares slumped on Friday (Nov 13) after commodity prices plunged to multi-year lows on worries that slower global growth may worsen a supply glut, while US Federal Reserve officials kept beating the drum for a rate hike next month.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.2 per cent, led by losses in resource shares. It was set for a weekly decline of 2.9 per cent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 0.87 per cent at 2,933.14 as of 11:57 am.

Japan's Nikkei snapped a seven-day winning streak, sliding 0.9 per cent, but remained on track for a weekly gain of 1.3 per cent.

The Shanghai Composite index slipped 1.3 per cent, but was poised to end the week flat.

Copper, often seen as a good gauge of the world's economic health because of its extensive industrial use, recovered some ground to hold steady at US$4,825 after earlier falling to a six-year low of US$4,800 per tonne, below its August trough. It was set for a 3.3 per cent loss for the week, its fourth consecutive weekly drop.

Oil prices plunged to near the 6 1/2-year lows touched in August, when financial markets were gripped by fear of a hard landing for the Chinese economy.

US crude futures hovered around to a 2-1/2 month low of US$41.54 per barrel on a persistent rise in US stockpiles, and were poised for a 6.2 per cent decline for the week.

Brent crude futures fell 3.9 per cent on Thursday to US$44.04 per barrel, edging near their 6 1/2-year low of US$42.23. They last stood at US$44.07, eyeing a weekly drop of 7.1 per cent.

"The oil stockpile kept rising. US crude futures look set to test, and will probably fall below, US$40. Data from China so far this week is showing no sign that growth might be picking up," said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

Gold edged back to US$1,083.20 from a six-year low of US$1,074.30 per ounce, extending its loss so far this month to 5.2 per cent.

Various Fed officials on Thursday lined up behind a likely December interest rate hike.

Stanley Fischer, the Fed's second-in-command, said US inflation should rebound next year, noting that the central bank could move next month to raise interest rates.

New York Fed President William Dudley said the risk of waiting too long was now roughly in balance with the risk of moving too soon to normalise rates.

None of these factors, however, significantly moved interest rate futures, which many analysts think are still pricing in a roughly 70 per cent chance of a rate hike in December, pointing to investor concerns about potential downside risks to the world economy.

Energy shares led the US S&P 500 Index to post its biggest fall since late September to a three-week low.

MSCI's ACWI, the index compiler's broadest gauge of world shares covering 46 markets fell to its lowest level in a month, having slipped 3.3 per cent from its 2 1/2-month touched on Nov 4.

In a sign of rising market stress, the CBOE volatility index rose to a one-month high of 18.50.

"Are we seeing the market putting the August-September macro conditions back in the microwave and hitting reheat? It certainly feels that way," Evan Lucas, market strategist at trading platform provider IG in Melbourne, wrote in a note.

The dollar index, which tracks the US currency against a basket of six of its major peers, edged back from Tuesday's seven-month high of 99.50 to last trade at 98.682.

The dollar was little changed at 122.64 yen, off Monday's 2 1/2-month peak of 123.60, as risk appetite receded.

The euro slipped 0.3 per cent to US$1.0786, extending Thursday's drop to US$1.0691 after European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi singled out the currency's more robust performance since May as one driver for a "weakening" outlook on inflation.

The Australian dollar remained resilient despite the commodities tumble, climbing 0.1 perc ent to US$$0.7132, extending Thursday's 0.9 per cent jump after a stronger-than-expected jobs report reduced the likelihood of an interest-rate cut.

Friday will see a deluge of global data, including euro zone countries' GDP as well as US retail sales figures.