Asian stocks fall as Covid-19 worries return to haunt markets

Reuters TOKYO | Updated on April 21, 2021

The rising infections in India has rattled the energy markets

Asian shares and US stock futures fell on Wednesday as concern about a resurgence of coronavirus cases in some countries cast doubt on the strength of global growth and demand for crude oil.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6 per cent. Australian stocks dropped1.25 per cent and shares in China were down 0.46 per cent.

Stocks in Tokyo slumped by 1.79 per cent due the growing likelihood that Tokyo, Osaka and surrounding areas will be put on lockdown due to a new wave of coronavirus infections.

S&P 500 e-mini stock futures also fell 0.18 per cent.

Crude futures extended declines from a one-month high in Asian trading on speculation that coronavirus restrictions in India, the world's third-largest oil importer, will hurt energy demand.

Recent optimism about rising vaccination rates in the United States, Britain, and Europe is shifting to concern that record coronavirus infections in India and the reinforcement of travelr estrictions will act as a brake on the global economy.

"Renewed concerns about the global economic recovery weighed on commodity prices and commodity currencies. Many countries around the world, such as India and Brazil, set new records for infections and deaths," analysts at Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a research note.

"As long as the virus persists, there is a risk virus mutants develop and spread to other countries."

Declines in Asian shares followed a downbeat day on WallStreet. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.75 per cent, theS&P 500 lost 0.68 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite fell0.92 per cent on Tuesday as investors sold airlines and travel-related shares due to fear of a delayed recovery in global tourism.

Some tech shares and companies that benefited from stay-at-home demand could face further pressure after Netflix Inc reported disappointing subscriber growth for its movie streaming service, which sent its shares down 11 per cent in after-hours trading.

Commodities and currencies

US crude dipped 0.4 per cent to $62.42 a barrel, while Brent crude fell 0.26 per cent to $66.40 per barrel.

India, the world's second most populous country and a major energy consumer, reported its worst daily death toll on Tuesday,with large parts of the country now under lockdown.

The Canadian dollar, the Mexican peso, and the Norwegian crown steadied during Asian trading after falling on Tuesday, but analysts say more declines the currencies of major oil exporters are likely if energy prices continue to fall.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies traded near a seven-week low, hurt by a dip in US Treasury yields as some investors sought the safety of holding government debt.

Investors are closely watching an auction of 20-year Treasuries later on Wednesday, which will be an important gauge of global demand for fixed income.

Ahead of the auction results, the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes traded at 1.5660 per cent, near a six-week low. Yields on 20-year Treasuries stood at 2.1531 per cent,close to a seven-week low.

In a sign of growing risk aversion, spot gold traded at $1,778.18 per ounce, close to a seven-week high reached on Monday.

Published on April 21, 2021

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