Pedestrians walk in front of a stock quotation board flashing the key Nikkei index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo yesterday
Most Asian markets fell yesterday following a healthy run-up in the week, tracking a sell-off on Wall Street where a plunge in retail giant Macy’s fanned concerns about the key US retail sector.
Optimism has been high the past four days on solid US jobs data and moderate Emmanuel Macron’s landslide French presidential win Sunday, pushing some markets to multi-year highs.
But traders took a step back ahead of the weekend with confidence rattled by a series of below-par Chinese data and Donald Trump’s shock firing of the head of the FBI, which some fear could lead to a crisis that will knock the president’s economy-boosting agenda offline.
On Thursday New York’s three main indexes turned negative after Macy’s announced a 39 percent fall in net profit, its latest in a series of weak readings that have underscored the deterioration of bricks-and-mortar stores due to the rise of e-commerce.
The figures hit other big-name stores and with the retail sector a crucial driver of the world’s top economy, there are fears about the outlook for top retailers.
Tokyo’s Nikkei index closed down 0.4 percent from a 17-month high, while Sydney shed 0.7 percent and Singapore gave up 0.3 percent. Seoul, which closed Thursday at a record high, eased 0.5 percent. Wellington, Taipei and Manila also slipped.
But Hong Kong rose 0.1 percent extending a rally to five days. Bloomberg News reported, without naming sources, that China had made preparations to support the Hang Seng Index if needed ahead of the expected visit of President Xi Xinping to the city for the July 1 handover celebrations.
Shanghai - which has fallen about seven percent in the past month on worries about a state crackdown on leveraged investing - ended up 0.7 percent with speculation mainland shares were also being given state backing. In early European trade London was flat, while Paris and Frankfurt each added 0.1 percent.
The dollar turned lower against the yen and euro, having enjoyed a surge Thursday on comments from a top Federal Reserve official backing three more interest rate hikes this year.
The unit “is weighed down by the Trump/Comey sideshow which has seen the greenback move lower against” major currencies, Stephen Innes, a senior trader at forex firm OANDA, said in a commentary.
And on oil markets both main contracts pressed on with their recovery from last week’s sharp losses, with investors cheering a bigger-than-expected drop in US inventories and signs an OPEC output cut was kicking in.