US sell-off hits Asia stocks; safe-haven yen, gold trade higher

Pedestrians are reflected on an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo on March 27, 2018.
Pedestrians are reflected on an electronics stock indicator at the window of a securities company in Tokyo on March 27, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SYDNEY (BLOOMBERG) - Asian stocks declined on Tuesday (April 3) as a sell-off in once much-favored US technology shares deepened and volatility soared. Havens like the yen added to gains and Treasuries steadied.

Equities in Japan and South Korea declined, and Australia opened lower after a four-day long weekend. The S&P 500 Index closed below its average price for the past 200 days for the first time since June 2016 with fresh presidential criticism of Amazon.com and retaliatory tariffs from China rattling investors. The Cboe Volatility Index jumped 18 per cent.

The Topix index fell 0.9 per cent as of 9:08am in Tokyo while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.3 per cent. South Korea's Kospi index declined 0.8 per cent.

Futures on the S&P 500 Index were 0.4 per cent higher. The main gauge declined 2.2 per cent on Monday. The index is now lower by more than 10 per cent from its January record, putting it into correction territory.

The Nasdaq 100 fell 2.9 per cent.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index decreased 0.4 per cent.

The yen rose 0.1 per cent to 105.79 per dollar after gaining 0.3 per cent on Monday. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index was little changed. The euro was virtually unchanged at US$1.2303.

After the worst three months for global stocks in more than two years, the second quarter started on the back foot as trade-tension worries festered and technology shares got slammed. The risk-off tone comes two weeks before earnings season begins, with investors still anticipating a strong showing, though watchful for signs of any slowdown in the synchronized global expansion and strains from US Federal Reserve tightening.

Fanning the rout in tech, the biggest gainers of the bull run, US President Donald Trump renewed his attack on Amazon, sending shares of the online retailer down the most in more than two years. Intel Corp also had its worst day in two years, after Apple Inc. was said to be planning to use its own chips in Mac computers from 2020.

Elsewhere, crude oil steadied after its biggest loss in almost two months as fears of a trade war prompted investors to dump commodities and gold held onto gains.

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.2 per cent to US$63.15 a barrel. It lost 3 per cent on Monday.

Gold was at US$1,341.64 an ounce after jumping 1.2 per cent.