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Stocks falter as virus outbreaks fan global recovery fears

  • While the US yield curve steepened slightly, the spread between the US 10-year and 2-year yield remained near February lows
Published July 20, 2021

HONG KONG: Asian stocks widened their losses on Tuesday as investor sentiment dampened further amid growing fears the spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus would harm the global economic recovery, sending riskier assets skidding sharply.

Europe and US markets look set to recover however with FTSE futures and E-mini futures for the S&P 500 index up 0.06% and 0.22% respectively.

MSCI's gauge of Asia Pacific stocks outside Japan widened losses to nearly 1%, with Australia's S&P/ASX 200 down 0.44%.

Japan's Nikkei 225 hit a six-month low, down nearly 1%.

China data, tech drive Asian shares higher

China deleveraging risks hurt property stocks and the broader market for a second day, causing a plunge in shares of heavily indebted developer China Evergrande Group. The Hang Seng Index plunged 1.16% while China's benchmark CSI300 Index slid 0.53%.

In Beijing, policymakers kept the benchmark lending rate for corporate and household loans unchanged at its July fixing on Tuesday, despite growing expectations for a cut after a surprise lowering of bank reserve requirements.

"The markets are clearly on risk-off mode," said Edison Pun, senior market analyst at Saxo Markets, adding that Wall Street's uptrend is weakening.

"Investors are worried that a fresh outbreak could potentially hinder the pace of economic reopening. The next 1-2 months will be an important litmus test on governments' strategy in normalizing lives and economic activities amid the threat of the pandemic," said Tai Hui, chief Asia market strategist, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.

In a separate gauge of investor risk appetite, bitcoin fell below $30,000 for the first time since June 22.

Stocks on Wall Street fell as much as 2% on Monday, with the Dow posting its worst day in nine months as COVID-19 deaths increased in the United States.

Riskier assets globally have come under pressure recently as many countries struggle to contain the outbreak of the fast-spreading Delta virus variant, raising fears that further lockdowns and other restrictions could upend the worldwide economic recovery.

"Despite the vaccine rollout, markets do not appear to be learning to live with COVID-19," ANZ analysts wrote in a note to clients.

"Sentiment appears to have shifted, at least for the moment, to a persuasion that growth and earnings expectations may be overdone," they said, noting that risk-averse investors were bailing out of commodities.

US yields turned higher on Tuesday following Monday's searing rally. The 10-year yield rose to 1.2087% from a close of 1.181%, a level last seen in February, and the 2-year yield edged up to 0.2196% from 0.21% Tuesday.

However, while the US yield curve steepened slightly, the spread between the US 10-year and 2-year yield remained near February lows, signalling investor doubts about the growth outlook.

JPMorgan's Hui said the drop in US yields reflects reduced inflation expectations if reopening is delayed and potential downside risk to the economy, but that value and cyclical sectors should continue to outperform over the next 6-12 months given the ongoing recovery globally.

Japan's core consumer prices rose 0.2% in June from a year earlier to mark the fastest annual pace in over a year, driven largely by higher energy costs, a sign the impact of global commodity inflation was gradually broadening.

Oil prices stabilised after slumping around 7% in the previous session amid worries about future demand and after an OPEC+ agreement to increase supply. Brent crude gained 1 cent to $68.63 a barrel by 0412 GMT. The US crude contract for August delivery, which expires later on Tuesday, was up 15 cents at $66.57 a barrel.

Spot gold was up 0.3% at $1,817.28 per ounce by 0503 GMT, after hitting a one-week low of $1,794.06 in the previous session.


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