Asian shares slumped with U.S. stock futures and the yen rebounded against the dollar as an unexpected drop in Chinese exports undermined confidence in the global economy.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.6 percent, dropping for a fifth straight day, as Hong Kong shares tumbled 1.4 percent as of 3:37 p.m. in Tokyo. Futures on the S&P 500 Index and Euro Stoxx 50 were each down 0.6 percent. Treasuries rose the most in two weeks amid demand for the safest assets. The yen climbed 0.4 percent against the U.S. currency, while the yuan weakened to near a six-year low. Crude oil continued to decline, falling below $50 a barrel. Thailand’s benchmark equity index headed for its lowest closing level since April.
Volatility is climbing as investors grapple with fresh evidence of a deepening slowdown in China, increasing bets on a U.S. interest-rate hike and uncertainty spurred by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union. Minutes of the Federal Reserve’s last meeting released Wednesday reinforced the case for tighter monetary policy before the end of the year.
“Poor export numbers spark concern about the rest of the world’s economic outlook,” said Andrew Clarke, Hong Kong-based director of trading at Mirabaud Asia Ltd. “Sentiment is already pretty pessimistic, with Brexit and the sterling, the yuan looking vulnerable, the property bubble in China, looming cash calls from mainland banks and of course, who becomes the next U.S. president.”
The Bloomberg Dollar Spot index erased gains on the China trade report, climbing back to an increase of 0.1 percent during the Asia afternoon. The gauge is trading near a seven-month high after the Fed minutes showed the decision to keep rates on hold was a close call. Odds on an increase in U.S. borrowing costs by the end of the year remain around 68 percent, according to Fed funds futures, up about six percentage points from a week ago.
The yen climbed to 103.82 per dollar after earlier touching 104.64, its weakest level since July 29. South Korea’s won extended declines versus the greenback Thursday, slipping 1 percent in a third day of losses. The country’s central bank held its key interest rate unchanged for a fourth month as policy makers kept a wary eye on soaring household debt and possible economic headwinds after Samsung Electronics Co. ended production of its Galaxy 7 Note.
Hong Kong stocks headed for a six-week low, with the Hang Seng taking its four-day loss to more than 3.5 percent. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. tumbled 5 percent to the lowest level since 2009 after scrapping its profit outlook and saying it is conducting a “critical review” of its business.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index dropped 1.6 percent, also declining for a fourth day, with Air China Ltd. and China Pacific Insurance Group Co. plunging more than 2.5 percent. The gauge rose 3.6 percent last week as higher oil prices boosted energy producers. The Shanghai Composite Index was little changed on Thursday.
The Topix index ended flat after erasing a gain of as much as 0.9 percent in the morning session. Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp. rose 0.2 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively, after announcing Wednesday they will be exploring a partnership. The Kospi index in Seoul dropped 0.6 percent, even as biggest stock Samsung Electronics rallied 1.6 percent following a selloff sparked by the company’s withdrawal of its flagship Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. India’s Sensex slipped 1 percent as investors returned from a two-day holiday.
Thailand’s benchmark SET Index lost 2.1 percent, and is poised to enter a correction after falling more than 10 percent from an August high. The gauge has fallen every day this week after the royal palace said in a statement on Sunday that 88-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s condition was unstable. The king is a symbol of unity in Thailand, which has had 10 coups during his seven-decade reign. The baht has tumbled 2.3 percent this week, the most in a decade.
Futures on the S&P 500 slipped 0.6 percent to 2,118.75 after the underlying benchmark eked out a 0.1 percent advance on Wednesday, rising from a one-month low. Shares of Wells Fargo & Co. climbed in extended New York trading after the bank’s chief executive officer, John Stumpf, stepped down amid a public outcry over fake accounts.
Sovereign bonds climbed as China’s trade data sent investors toward safer assets. Benchmark U.S. 10-year yields slid three basis points to 1.74 percent, after climbing to the highest level since June on Wednesday. Australia’s 10-year yield dropped six basis points to 2.25 percent. The yield also fell from its highest level since June in its first decline in almost two weeks.
China’s exports fell 10 percent in September from a year earlier, while imports declined 1.9 percent. Lackluster trade data may increase pressure on the yuan at the same time as new property curbs threaten the nation’s growth rate.
“The Chinese economy is going to be weaker,” said Kazuaki Oh’E, the head of fixed income at CIBC World Markets Japan Inc. in Tokyo. “There’s a flight to quality.”
Oil extended its decline below $50 a barrel after U.S. industry data showed stockpiles grew and as differences emerge within OPEC over how members will share output cuts. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 0.8 percent to $49.79 a barrel, bringing its three-day drop to 3 percent.
Base metals slumped amid concerns over China’s economy. Nickel sank as much as 1.9 percent on the London Metal Exchange, reversing earlier gains. While metals have advanced into a bull market this year as China’s economy stabilized, signs of an export slowdown are now clouding the outlook for global demand.
Gold rose for a second day, and platinum rebounded after entering a bear market on Wednesday. Corn advanced following its steepest drop in a month, adding 0.4 percent while wheat increased 0.3 percent.