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Asia: Shares down as Wall St tumbles on poor data

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 10:48
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Asian shares fell Thursday after Wall Street dropped on weaker-than-expected US economic data and a warning from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that stock valuations were "quite high".

[TOKYO] Asian shares fell Thursday after Wall Street dropped on weaker-than-expected US economic data and a warning from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that stock valuations were "quite high".

Tokyo was down 1.02 per cent after a three-day holiday, Sydney fell 0.70 per cent, Seoul lost 1.69 per cent, and Hong Kong slipped 0.70 per cent.

Mainland Chinese markets were also down with Shanghai falling 1.76 percent.

Fresh US data was relatively weak. Non-farm productivity fell 1.9 per cent in the first quarter year-on-year. It was the second straight quarterly fall.

Payroll firm ADP meanwhile reported the US added just 169,000 private-sector jobs in April, the second month in a row under 200,000, as the oil sector downturn continued to pinch the labour market.

The figures came ahead of Friday's highly anticipated Labor Department jobs report.

"The US economy was expected to bottom out in March and recover in the second quarter, but so far the figures for April have been poor," Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.

"Sentiment could sour even more depending on the April payrolls report. Risk-off moves could intensify if the US economic situation is deemed weak." Sentiment also took a hit as Ms Yellen warned that US stock markets were at risk of overheating.

"There are potential dangers there," she told a conference, but added there was no rapid credit growth and "no signs of a financial bubble." "I believe we are better positioned now" to see risks, Ms Yellen added.

The comments help to dampen investors' spirits with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 0.48 per cent, while the S&P 500 was down 0.45 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.40 per cent.

Investors were also keeping a close eye the tense situation in cash-strapped Greece, after the European Union and International Monetary Fund hit back Wednesday at accusations by Athens that internal rifts were blocking a bailout deal.

The row burst into the open just as a feverish push by Athens to secure a deal spread across European capitals with Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis visiting Rome Wednesday before a visit to Spain on Thursday.

Oil prices were just off new 2015 peaks hit Wednesday after weekly data showed US commercial crude stockpiles unexpectedly slumped in the first decline in four months.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery slipped 53 cents to US$60.40 a barrel, while Brent crude for June was off 49 cents to US$67.28.

In currency markets, the dollar was steady against the yen and euro after dropping sharply in New York on the weak US data, which raised more questions about whether a Fed interest rate hike would be pushed back.

The greenback fetched 119.55 yen in Asian trade Thursday, against 119.44 yen in New York.

The euro inched down to US$1.1336 and 135.50 yen, compared with US$1.1348 and 135.54 yen in US trade.

Gold fetched US$1,188.07 against 1,189.70 late Wednesday.

AFP