Asian shares fall as Delta fears dominate

Asian shares fall as Delta fears dominate

Asian shares have failed to follow a strong close on Wall Street as fears about the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus weighed on sentiment even as tame US inflation eased fears the Federal Reserve would rush to reduce its economic support.

That data also caused dollar to retreat against most major currencies and US Treasury yields to edge down overnight though both were steadier in Asian hours on Thursday.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 0.25 per cent in early trading, dragged by a 0.24 per cent decline in Chinese blue chips. The Hong Kong benchmark fell 0.2 per cent while Australian shares were largely flat and Japan's Nikkei rose 0.35 per cent.

US stock futures were little changed, with S&P 500 e-minis down 0.02 per cent.

The weaker performance by Asian benchmarks contrasts with the situation elsewhere in the world. On Wednesday the MSCI all-country index, a gauge of stocks across the globe, hit a record high.

In comparison, the Asian benchmark is down over 10 per cent from its February peak.

“The money is just in the US and European markets right now, and that's our preferred market too,” said Daniel Lam, senior cross-asset strategist, Standard Chartered Wealth Management.

Lam pointed to a strong US earning season and Europe's high vaccination rates meaning the pace of reopening has been less harmed by the spread of the Delta variant of the new coronavirus, and “recent China regulation blues” in sectors such as education and technology.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 closed at record levels on Wednesday, after the US Labor Department reported the largest drop in month-to-month inflation in 15 months, easing concerns about the potential for runaway inflation.

US policymakers are publicly discussing how and when they should begin to trim the massive asset purchases launched by the Fed last year to stabilise financial markets and support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic.

The easing of fears about inflation reduces the pressure to taper those asset purchases soon rather than later in the year, after strong employment figures last week had given ammunition to those with a more hawkish tilt.

As a result, US Treasury yields fell on Wednesday across most maturities, though trading was choppy.

Moves were more muted in Asian hours. Yields on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes was last 1.3455 per cent compared with its US close of 1.359 per cent.

The dollar hovered below a four-month peak against major peers on Thursday, after retreating overnight as yields dropped.

Oil largely held on to gains from earlier in the week, US crude dipped 0.03 per cent to $US69.23 a barrel. Brent crude was flat at $US71.43.

Gold also held on to overnight gains on Thursday, with the spot price down 0.1 per cent having risen 1.3 per cent in the previous session. Easing of fears about higher interest rates would typically help the non-interest bearing asset.

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