Asian shares extend global sell-off, dollar holds gains

Sydney — Asian shares extended a global sell-off on Wednesday while the dollar held gains as market optimism about early and aggressive US interest rate cuts ebbed ahead of the release of Fed minutes and jobs data.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.1% after a 1.0% drop the previous day in a sluggish start of the new year. Japan markets remain shut for a holiday.

South Korean shares slid 1.8%, Australia’s resources’ heavy stocks declined 1.1%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1%, driven by a 1.5% plunge in technology shares.

“Risk assets struggled a tad yesterday, and that makes a degree of sense given the complicated back story, and the remarkable rally seen into year-end,” said Padhraic Garvey, regional head of research, Americas, at ING.

“While a one-day move cannot be simply extrapolated, there are reasons to be a tad concerned on the risk front at this early phase of 2024. Geopolitical concerns have not abated, and in fact if anything are elevating.”

Tensions in the Middle East are ratcheting up. Israel on Tuesday killed Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri in Lebanon’s capital Beirut, raising the potential risk of war in Gaza spreading well beyond the Palestinian enclave.

Denmark’s Maersk and German rival Hapag-Lloyd said on Tuesday their container ships would continue to avoid the Red Sea route.

Overnight, Wall Street’s euphoria about rate cuts prospects cooled a little as stocks retreated from record highs. The Nasdaq slid 1.6% and the S&P 500 lost 0.6%.

Stocks were also put under pressure by a climb in Treasury yields in the new year. The 10-year US Treasury yield briefly popped above 4% overnight, the first time in two weeks, but closed at 3.9406%, up eight basis points for the day.

Cash Treasuries were not traded in Asia due to the holiday in Japan, and 10-year Treasury futures were mostly flat on Wednesday.