Bulls And Bears

Asian markets fall on spate of gloomy news

Sentiment hit by disappointing data from top economies, US-China trade spat

Worrying news on several fronts dragged down regional markets yesterday, with jittery investors wondering which way to turn.

Concerns over global growth and United States-China trade tensions occupied many, while data from the three largest economies came in below expectations.

The fact that China summoned the US ambassador to show its displeasure over the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou did not help the mood.

White House economic adviser Peter Navarro has attempted to distance the US-China trade talks from Ms Meng's arrest by calling them "two separate events", but later rattled markets with a warning that the US would raise tariffs on Chinese imports if the countries could not reach an agreement during the 90-day truce period.

"Market participants are clearly focusing on a possible escalation in the trade war on the back of the Huawei arrest," Mr Stephane Ekolo, an equity strategist at TFS Derivatives, told Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Japan posted its largest fall in gross domestic product in more than four years yesterday as business spending cuts and several natural disasters in the third quarter contributed to a 2.5 per cent contraction. This followed Chinese data over the weekend indicating that import and export growth slowed last month.

And the US reported last Friday that last month's job and wage growth rose by less than forecast.

China's disappointing numbers sent the Hang Seng in Hong Kong down 1.2 per cent, while the Shanghai Composite dipped 0.8 per cent. Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 2.1 per cent, and markets in South Korea, Malaysia and Australia ended lower.

The Straits Times Index here dived to an intraday low of 3,064.02 at 10.30am before recovering slightly, although it still closed down 38.68 points, or 1.24 per cent, at 3,072.44, extending its losing streak to a fifth day.

Turnover was 1.1 billion shares worth $740.1 million, with losers outnumbering gainers 279 to 115.

Financials were the biggest drag on the index, as DBS gave up 1.5 per cent to $23.80, OCBC Bank dipped 1.4 per cent to $11.07, and United Overseas Bank lost 0.8 per cent to $24.64.

Ezion Holdings was the most active, with 83.7 million shares changing hands before it closed down 5.3 per cent at 5.4 cents.

Singtel declined 0.6 per cent to $3.06. It yesterday announced that its mobile wallet app Dash has been accepted on Apple Pay.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 11, 2018, with the headline Asian markets fall on spate of gloomy news . Subscribe