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Asia Stock Slump Adds to $6.2 Trillion Wipeout as Year Runs Out

Moxy Ying
Asia Stock Slump Adds to $6.2 Trillion Wipeout as Year Runs Out

(Bloomberg) -- The sea of red that’s engulfing Asian stocks is enough to sap hopes even from the most optimistic traders.

The regional gauge fell 1.8 percent, heading for its biggest daily plunge in six weeks as markets from Tokyo to Hong Kong and Mumbai sank. In just three days, the rally seen last week in anticipation of Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping’s trade discussions has more than vanished, with Asian equity values taking their losses from a January high to $6.2 trillion.

On Thursday, it was the ripple effects of the arrest of Huawei Technologies Co.’s chief financial officer that hit the market. Wanzhou Meng -- also the deputy chairwoman and daughter of the company’s founder -- was arrested in Canada over potential violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran, provoking outrage from China and spooking Asian traders.

“We’ve already had the trade issue, and now there is another place on fire,” said Steven Leung, executive director at UOB Kay Hian (Hong Kong) Ltd. “Earlier the market still had some optimistic thoughts that there will be a short cool-down period from the trade war, but now that’s gone.”

Losses in Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index reached 3 percent at one point, more than anywhere else in the region. In addition to the Huawei hit, business groups in the city are starting to worry the Trump administration will open the door to ending the financial hub’s preferential trade status, rendering it “just another Chinese city” as its government gets closer to Beijing.

It didn’t help that U.S. equity-index futures sank on Thursday, with contracts on the S&P 500 Index plunging as much as 1.9 percent from Tuesday’s close, presaging more losses as trading resumes after a day of mourning for former President George H.W. Bush. And with OPEC+ failing to agree on details of oil-production cuts, energy shares in Asia got another hit.

As a result, investors have turned to haven assets: the yen strengthened, knocking down Japan’s Topix index by as much as 2.5 percent and sending it to a five-week low.

And the cautious calls have accumulated recently:

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. recommended bigger cash holdings than benchmarks suggest, while still advising to overweight stocks.JPMorgan Asset Management said cash isn’t only a safe place, it now offers a better risk-adjusted return than equities. Investec Asset Management, looking at the optimistic calls out there, says “too much wishful thinking” in the market and says it’s better to sell on rallies for those who can’t deal with volatility.

For Asian shares, time is running out to recover the 13 percent slide the MSCI Asia Pacific Index has racked up in 2018, putting it on track for its worst year since 2011. And once again, the regional benchmark failed to hold above its 50-day moving average. With uncertainties over trade talks and growing worries about the global economic growth, hopes for a strong recovery are dimming.

Stock-Market Summary

Japan’s Topix index down 1.8%; Nikkei 225 down 1.9%Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index down 2.5%; Hang Seng China Enterprises down 2.6%; Shanghai Composite down 1.7%Taiwan’s Taiex index down 2.3%South Korea’s Kospi index down 1.6%; Kospi 200 down 1.6%Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 0.2%; New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 down 0.3%India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index down 1.2%; NSE Nifty 50 down 1.3%Singapore’s Straits Times Index down 1.3%; Malaysia’s KLCI down 0.3%; Philippine Stock Exchange down 1.3%; Jakarta Composite down 0.7%; Thailand’s SET down 1.1%; Vietnam’s VN Index down 0.2%

To contact the reporter on this story: Moxy Ying in Hong Kong at yying13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Divya Balji at dbalji1@bloomberg.net, Cecile Vannucci

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