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Asia: Stocks hit 3-week lows as China gloom spreads


[HONG KONG] Asian stocks fell to three-week lows on Tuesday as a deepening rout in Chinese stocks erased risk appetite - sending investors flocking to safe-haven instruments such as government bonds and the Japanese yen.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.8 per cent in early deals, its lowest level since July 9 as mainland Chinese indexes opened 2- 5 per cent lower. "Volatility is the enemy of investor appetite," said the head of index trading at a US fund. "Any sign of government support to prop up the market will be used by investors to exit the market completely rather than add fresh positions." Since hitting a peak in early June, Chinese shares have gone through a roller-coaster ride with main China indexes falling by a third in less than a month before rebounding by a quarter, only to stage its biggest one-day fall since 2007.

While broader Asian markets have been initially resilient to the fireworks in Chinese stocks, they have started to move more closely in step with the mainland over recent days in the absence of fresh triggers elsewhere.

Correlations between the MSCI gauge for regional stocks and the Shanghai index has risen to 0.5 - its strongest in nearly a year - indicating the market rout is starting to have a broader regional impact.

Tokyo's Nikkei fell more than 1 per cent, with a strong yen accelerating the decline. Australian shares fell 0.9 per cent and South Korea's Kospi shed 1 per cent.

Investor sentiment was also cautious ahead of a two-day US Federal Reserve meeting beginning later today where some investors believe the Fed's rate-setting Open Market Committee will make its case for hiking rates as early as September.

Overnight, the Dow dropped 0.7 per cent and Nasdaq fell 1 per cent while share indices in Frankfurt and Paris tumbled more than 2.5 per cent.

In currencies, the dollar was on the back foot at 123.12 yen as safe-haven assets were boosted by market jitters, offsetting upbeat US durable good orders data.

The euro was little changed at US$1.1091 after surging to a two-week high of US$1.1129 overnight thanks to a bullish Ifo survey of German business sentiment.

Bonds were the solitary bright spot in Asia with US Treasuries and Japanese government debt standing tall in a sea of red across stock markets as investors dumped riskier bets.

Ten-year Japanese bond yields held firm at 0.40 per cent, from 0.55 per cent two weeks earlier, a large move for the markets while 10-year US Treasuries held at 2.2 per cent.

Oil struggled at four-month lows after the Chinese stock market crash fuelled worries the world's biggest energy consumer may cut back and as more evidence emerged of a global crude supply glut.

US crude was down nearly a percent at US$46.98 a barrel, near US$46.91, its lowest since late March.

Copper, heavily influenced by demand from key consumer China, languished near a six-year low of US$5,164 a tonne on the London Metal Exchange.

The broader Thomson Reuters CRB commodities index also hit a six-year low.