Asian stocks were lower on Wednesday, with European banking sector concerns and lower crude oil prices dulling investors’ appetite for riskier assets. Spread-betters expected Britain’s FTSE, Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC to open slightly firmer, with Wall Street’s gains overnight just barely offsetting negative views on stocks. Equities in Asia had gained on Tuesday from a perceived win by Democrat Hillary Clinton at the first presidential debate over Republican Donald Trump, who is seen as creating greater uncertainty for the US and global economies.
But the relief gave way to angst about the European financial sector, gripped by worries over the health of Deutsche Bank, whose shares hit a record low overnight. Oil, weighed down by waning hopes that a meeting of producers would reduce oversupply, also soured sentiment. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2%, erasing earlier modest gains. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.5% and Shanghai lost 0.3%. Australian stocks slipped 0.1%.
Japan’s Nikkei underperformed and was last down 1.4%. Japanese stocks were dogged by threats of a robust yen, which hurts exporters’ earnings. "By looking at the current dollar-yen levels, companies will likely have no choice but to lower their dollar-yen assumptions in their mid-year earnings releases," said Norihiro Fujito, a senior investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities in Tokyo. Overnight, US shares rose on broader support for equities following the presidential debate and upbeat consumer confidence data, though gains were capped by energy sector weakness.
Oil fell about 3% on Tuesday after Saudi Arabia and Iran dashed expectations that the two major OPEC producers would find a compromise at a meeting in Algiers to help ease a global glut of crude. US crude had crawled up 0.3% to $44.79 a barrel on Wednesday, the final day of the Sept. 26-28 International Energy Forum gathering. With oil prices having dropped to less than half of their 2014 highs, the Algiers talks are OPEC’s second attempt at an output agreement after a failed round in Qatar in April.
"The market currently does not expect any agreement at this meeting, so no agreement should have only limited negative impact on the oil price," wrote Marshall Gittler, head of investment research at FXPRIMUS. "Expectations are now so low though that if by some miracle they did come to even a half-hearted agreement, that would probably send prices up sharply."
The dollar was up 0.2% to 100.635 yen but was still in reach of a one-month low of 100.085 seen the previous day. It had popped up to 100.990 yen on Tuesday when Clinton was seen to have emerged as the debate winner. But the rise faded with the market reminded that Clinton also favors a weaker dollar. The euro was steady at $1.1211 after losing about 0.4% overnight on Europe’s banking sector worries.
The near-term market focus was on comments European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. Draghi will face tough questions from German lawmakers on Wednesday about the central bank’s monetary policy, while Yellen will deliver semi-annual testimony before the US House Financial Services Committee.
The Mexican peso, which jumped against the dollar following Clinton’s perceived debate win, held on to gains. It was little changed at 19.39 pesos to the dollar, having rallied on Tuesday from a record low of 19.92 hit on worries that a Trump win would threaten Mexico’s exports to the United States. The 10-year Treasury yield hovered near a three-week low of 1.546% touched overnight amid speculation that Europe’s banking woes could delay the Fed’s next rate hike.