Asian stocks stagger as dollar rally continues

Singapore — Asia’s stock markets dipped on Friday, with tech shares tumbling on deepening Sino-US tensions, while the dollar was set to seal its longest winning streak in nine years as investors braced for US interest rates to stay higher for longer.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.2% and is down 1.4% for the week. Hong Kong markets were closed for the morning due to storms lashing the city. Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.37%.

European stocks looked set for a higher open, with futures for Eurostoxx 50 up 0.21%, and those for the German DAX up 0.18% and FTSE down 0.07%.

All eyes will be on European Apple suppliers after about $200bn was wiped from the company’s market capitalisation in two days on reports of China curbing iPhone use by state employees and on Friday protectionism fears were weighing on shares of suppliers in Asia.

Shares in Taiwan’s TSMC, a big Apple supplier, eased 0.37%. Shares in South Korea’s SK Hynix, whose chips some users have found in China’s Huawei Technologies’ new phone, fell 4%. Tokyo Electron shares dropped about 4%.

“China’s partial ban on Apple products put trade wars and US-China decoupling back on the agenda,” said analyst Kyle Rodda. “The ban is narrow in scope … however, it illustrated the two-way costs and risks of decoupling.”

US suppliers’ shares had fallen overnight and helped drag the S&P 500 0.3% lower and the Nasdaq down by 0.9%. S&P 500 futures were little change in Asia on Friday.

The selling also came while tech stocks have been under extra pressure from US yields that have been rising on bets that US interest rates are likely to linger at 20-year highs.

That in turn has unleashed the dollar, which is up for an eighth straight week against a basket of currencies, a rally that has carried the US currency index more than 5% higher.

Dollar gains have pushed the Chinese yuan to a 16-year low and have prompted a step up in rhetoric from Japanese policymakers growing uncomfortable with the yen’s slide.

“Given challenges facing China, and more signs of a retightening of the US jobs market, it is not surprising that the dollar is finding support, allowing the ‘dollar juggernaut’ to continue its rampaging run,” analysts at ANZ Bank said in a note.

The euro is down 0.5% this week and traded steady at $1.0715 in Asia with investors reckoning a hold is more likely than a hike from the European Central Bank next week.

The yen has found new 10-month lows and, at 147.19/$ is heading towards the vicinity of 150, where traders see high risks of authorities stepping in with support.

Japan’s top currency diplomat Masato Kanda said on Wednesday that authorities will not rule out any option to clamp down on “speculative” moves, while chief cabinet secretary Hirokazy Matsuno said the government was watching with “urgency”.

The Australian dollar is down more than 1% on the week and traded at $0.6384 on Friday. Benchmark 10-year US Treasury yields are up more than 5 basis points to 4.22% this week. Two-year yields are up 6 bps to 4.93%.

Brent crude prices are up this week, but gains on recently robust US data have been tempered by softening indicators of demand in Europe and China. Brent futures were last steady at $89.33 a barrel, down 0.66% on the day, but up nearly 1% for the week.