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Asian shares tumble on emerging market worries

A man looks at at an electronic stock quotation board outside a brokerage in TokyoAsian shares tumbled and the yen reached for seven-week highs against the dollar and euro on Monday as emerging markets remained under pressure, with the U.S. Federal Reserve poised to continue tapering stimulus and tighter credit conditions in China raising fears of a sharper economic slowdown.

But U.S. stock futures suggested the selloff might abate later in the session. S&P 500 E-mini futures edged up 0.2 percent after the Standard & Poor’s 500 index shed 2.0 percent on Friday, when all three major stock indexes dropped for a second consecutive session.

The Philippine peso and Malaysian ringgit both fell to their lowest levels since 2010 as emerging market assets came under pressure across the board.

“The market is definitely focusing on EM, particularly the weak EM countries,” said Jeffrey Halley, FX trader for Saxo Capital Markets in Singapore.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS fell 1.5 percent to four-and-a-half month low, after losing more than 1.0 percent on Friday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 2.1 percent to a five-month low.

Japan’s Nikkei share average surrendered the 15,000-level and dropped 2.5 percent.

Expectations of continued stimulus withdrawal by the U.S. Federal Reserve added to the market’s gloom.

Fed officials are seen cutting bond-buying by another $10 billion at their regular two-day policy meeting beginning on Tuesday, and are likely to remain unfazed by the ongoing rout in emerging markets.

“Everyone was reminded about last May’s turmoil when investors unwound their positions in emerging markets on worries about Fed’s tapering,” said Norihiro Fujito, a senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo.

Data on capital flows suggests retail investors are mainly responsible for the current emerging markets rout, which could intensify if institutional investors join the capital flight.

Investors also continued to fret about the impact of tightening credit conditions in China as Beijing seeks to curb growth in high-risk lending.

The dollar slipped to as low as 101.77 yen early on Monday, its weakest since December 6, though it had last stabilized at 102.52 yen, up 0.2 percent.

The euro also fell to a seven-week low of 139.25 yen but also rebounded to edge up 0.2 percent on the day to 140.30 yen.

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasuries notes stood at 2.735 percent in Asian trade, after it fell as low as 2.706 percent on Friday, its lowest intraday level since November 26.

In commodities trading, gold rallied for a third straight session on Monday to a fresh two-month high, after marking its fifth consecutive weekly gain. Spot gold added about 0.3 percent to $1,271.61 an ounce, after rising as high as $1,278.01.

U.S. crude futures edged higher on the weaker dollar, rising about 0.2 percent to $96.76 a barrel, though concerns about China’s slowdown capped gains.

Copper on the London Metal Exchange edged up about 0.2 percent to $7,193 a tonne, after earlier sinking as low as $7,160, which was its lowest since December 11.-Reuters