SYDNEY, April 3 — Asian shares tracked Wall Street lower on Wednesday as US yields held near four-month highs, while a powerful earthquake in the region raised concerns about possible disruptions to the vital chip-making industry.

Markets are also pondering the risk of slower rate cuts ahead of US data and an appearance by the world’s most powerful central banker later in the day. Oil extended its ascent, while gold prices hit another a record high.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7 per cent. Japan’s Nikkei dropped 1 per cent, after a 20 per cent blockbuster rally in the first quarter.

Taiwan’s shares skidded 0.8 per cent after a powerful earthquake with a magnitude of 7.2 rocked Taipei, the capital, sparking a tsunami warning for the islands of southern Japan and the Philippines.

Advertisement

Shares of the chip giant Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co fell 1.4 per cent after the company said some facilities were evacuated following the quake.

China’s blue chips eased 0.3 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6 per cent, even as a private survey showed that the expansion in the services industry picked up pace in March.

On Wall Street, a recent run of solid US economic data — including an unexpected expansion in the manufacturing sector and the slow easing in the labour market — has stoked doubts about the amount of the Fed easing likely this year and next.

Advertisement

A pair of Fed policymakers on Tuesday both said they think it would be “reasonable” to cut US interest rates three times this year, but markets only see about 69 basis points in easing.

“At this last meeting, they still indicate three times, but these movements tend to have some momentum. As they start to shift, you find that they will probably shift again next meeting and then by next meeting, they probably will be indicating that they’re going to cut only twice,” said Andrew Lilley, chief rates strategist at Barrenjoey in Sydney.

“And there’s a very high chance of one in three, that they don’t ease at all.”

The three major Wall Street indexes fell about 0.7 per cent-1 per cent. Tesla shares lost about 5 per cent after quarterly deliveries fell for the first time in nearly four years.

Long-term Treasury yields climbed to multi-month highs overnight before paring some of the movements. The benchmark 10-year yield was last at 4.3471 per cent on Wednesday, after hitting a four-month high of 4.405 per cent overnight.

Investors now await euro zone inflation data, which could surprise on the downside after German inflation eased more than expected. In the US, a private payrolls report and a services sector survey are the key data risks, along with a speech from Fed Chair Jerome Powell on the economic outlook.

In currency markets, the dollar failed to get a lift from higher yields but still loomed large against major peers. The yen was jittery at 151.50 per dollar, just a whisker away from the 152 level that prompted authorities to intervene in late 2022.

Oil gained for a fourth straight day as escalating geopolitical tensions fuelled worries about tighter supplies ahead of an Opec+ meeting where the group is unlikely to change output policy. Brent eased 0.2 per cent to US$87.18 a barrel, while US crude lost 0.3 per cent to US$83.21 per barrel.

Gold prices extended their record rally on Wednesday. Spot gold hit an all-time high of US$2,288.09 per ounce earlier in the session before running into some profit taking and was last flat at US$2,277.99. — Reuters