Asian shares flat, holidays help blunt US tech retreat

Nasdaq futures steadied after a sharp pullback overnight, while S&P 500 futures inched up 0.1 per cent. — Reuters pic
Nasdaq futures steadied after a sharp pullback overnight, while S&P 500 futures inched up 0.1 per cent. — Reuters pic

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SYDNEY, May 5 ― Asian shares risked falling for a fourth straight session today as sentiment took a knock from a selloff in large cap Wall Street tech darlings, combined with talk of rising US interest rates.

Holidays in Japan, China and South Korea limited the early reaction, leaving MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dithering either side of flat.

Japan's Nikkei was shut, but futures traded down at 28,735 compared to the last cash close of 28,812.

Nasdaq futures steadied after a sharp pullback overnight, while S&P 500 futures inched up 0.1 per cent.

The Nasdaq had dropped 1.9 per cent yesterday as some big tech names ran into profit-taking, including Microsoft Corp, Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc .

Stretched valuations were tested when US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said rate hikes may be needed to stop the economy overheating.

She later waked back the comments, but it reminded investors that rates would have to rise at some point in the future.

“Moderate inflation and a slow moving Fed would continue to be supportive, but inflation and a reactive Fed may prove to be a negative for valuations,” said Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.

“Either way yields and equities are likely to be in a dance as much better than expected economic data continues to challenge central banks' rates guidance.”

One such challenge looms on Friday when US payrolls data are forecast to show a hefty rise of 978,000, while some estimates go as high as 2.1 million.

So far, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has argued the labour market is still far short of where it needs to be to start talking of tapering asset buying.

Minneapolis Fed Bank President Neel Kashkari, a notable dove, yesterday said it may take a few years for the economy to get back to full employment.

The Fed's dogged patience allowed yields on US 10-year notes to ease back to 1.59 per cent, from last week's top of 1.69 per cent, though the market has struggled to break below 1.53 per cent.

Just the mention of higher US rates was enough to help the dollar recoup a little of its recent losses.

The euro dropped back to US$1.2015 (RM4.94) and threatened to breach important chart support in the US$1.1995/1.2000 area. A break would open the way to a retracement target at US$1.1923.

The dollar was a shade firmer on the yen at 109.36, but faces resistance at 109.61. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar edged up to 91.282 and away from a recent two-month low of 90.422.

The New Zealand dollar blipped higher to US$0.7160 when local jobs data proved strong than expected.

In commodity markets, palladium soared to a record high on worries over short supplies of the metal used in emissions controlling devices in automobiles.

Gold was left lagging at US$1,776 an ounce.

Oil prices climbed to seven-week peaks as more countries opened their borders to travellers, improving the demand outlook for petrol and jet fuel.

Brent added 57 cents to US$69.49 a barrel, near its highest since mid-March, while US crude rose 52 cents to US$66.23 per barrel. ― Reuters

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