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Asian equities sank in the wake of the S&P 500’s first 1 per cent fall in more than five months as investors fretted US President Donald Trump’s pro-growth policies could take longer than expected to come to fruition.
The S&P 500 closed down 1.2 per cent on Tuesday following a sudden sell-off in US financial stocks. This was the first time since October 11 that the equity index closed lower by more than 1 per cent, or a 109-session streak.
Uncertainty over how long it will take to pass Mr Trump’s healthcare bill has tripped concerns over how long it will take the new president to achieve his other policy goals, such as loosening regulations in the financial sector.
Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower during morning trading on Wednesday with Australian and Japanese markets seeing their worse day since the US election.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 1.6 per cent as the largest falls coming from the heavyweight financials and materials sectors. Tokyo stocks were down with the benchmark Topix index off 1.9 per cent seeing falls across all sectors.
In Hong Kong the Hang Seng index fell 1.2 per while on the mainland Chinese stocks fared less badly, with the Shanghai and Shenzhen benchmarks both down 0.5 and 0.5 per cent.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six peers remained below the psychologically important 100-point mark in Asian trade following its first close below that level in a month.
The Japanese yen was at ¥111.63 against the dollar, firming 0.1 per cent to a four-month high as the country reported exports grew above analysts’ expectations in February.
South Korea’s won slipped 0.5 per cent against the dollar to Won1,125.85 heading for its first fall in a week.
Investors rushed for perceived safety of government debt amid the stock market sell-off. The yield on 10-year US Treasuries, which move inversely to price, was down 0.7 basis points at 2.41 per cent, the lowest point this month.
Yields on Japanese bonds were also lower, with the yield on the 10-year note down 0.4 basis points at 0.062 per cent, while Australian 10-year sovereign bonds saw yield drop 5.3 basis points to 2.755 per cent, the lowest level this month.