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Asia: Markets suffer fresh gains, energy firms tank

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[HONG KONG] Asian equities fell again Wednesday extending the previous day's geopolitics-fuelled sell-off, with energy firms taking another battering in response to an oil market rout.

Investors around the world are fleeing riskier assets such as stocks and high-yielding currencies in search of safety as wave of negative issues dominate the news.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at Oanda, pointed to "a toxic geopolitical cocktail of nagging concerns" from Chinese growth, stuttering Brexit talks, Italy's budget standoff with Brussels and the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He also highlighted that even US stocks - which have been supported in recent months by a strong economy despite sharp losses elsewhere - are feeling the strain.

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"Significant for global equity investors, the US equities Teflon persona was seriously questioned as price action suggested there is one asset class investors fear: equities," he warned in a note.

"And like migratory birds heading south for winter, the icy chill enveloping global stock markets has sent investors flocking to safe to haven assets."

Despite an afternoon bounce, Wall Street's three main indexes ended with losses following a mixed round of earnings.

And the selling continued in Asia.

Hong Kong, which dived more than three per cent om Tuesday, lost 0.2 per cent, while Shanghai slipped 0.5 per cent, with the Friday-Monday surge from Chinese officials' coordinated support almost forgotten.

Tokyo ended the morning session 0.1 per cent lower, Seoul dropped 0.4 per cent and Sydney was 0.3 per cent lower.

Taipei, Wellington and Manila were also down, though Singapore edged slightly higher.

David Kudla, chief executive officer of Mainstay Capital Management, told Bloomberg Television: "We've come up upon a tremendous wall of worry for US stocks and stocks around the world. Concern among investors is the deceleration in earnings growth."

Energy companies were among the worst hit after both main contracts plunged more than four percent Tuesday after Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih said the major producer would boost output and spare capacity to help maintain supplies.

Prices had hit four-year highs this month with sanctions due to be imposed on Iran next month, while Venezuela continued with an economic and political crisis and US data pointed to a pick-up in demand.

However, they have dipped in recent weeks owing to growing concerns about the global economy, particularly China, and a rise in the US dollar, which makes the commodity expensive for holders of other currencies.

While Brent and WTI were flat Wednesday, Sydney-listed Woodside Petroleum fell 1.5 per cent, while Inpex tanked 3.7 per cent in Tokyo and CNOOC dived 3.1 per cent in Hong Kong.

Investors are also keeping an eye on Italy after the EU rejected the populist government's big-spending budget, the first time it has turned a member away over spending rules violations.

With Rome likely to ignore the decision, the move puts the two on course to a clash, just as the EU struggles to reach a deal for Britain to leave the bloc with a deadline imminent.

AFP