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Asian Shares Tumble On Rate Hike Fears

stockmarkets jan18 21jun21 lt

Asian stocks fell sharply on Monday on fears about early tapering after a Fed official said inflation risks may warrant higher interest rates by 2022, a year sooner than his colleagues' projections. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is scheduled to testify at a House hearing on Tuesday.

Chinese shares ended a tad higher as the country's central bank kept its benchmark lending rates unchanged, as widely expected. The one-year loan prime rate was maintained at 3.85 percent and the five-year loan prime rate was retained at 4.65 percent.

China's Shanghai Composite Index ended up 4.09 points, or 0.1 percent, at 3,529.18, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 312.27 points, or 1.1 percent, to 28,489.

Japanese shares plummeted and the safe-haven yen firmed up as the Fed's hawkish tilt hit riskier assets. The Nikkei 225 Index plunged 953.15 points, or 3.3 percent, to 28,010.93, logging its lowest closing since May 17 and the biggest point drop since February 26. The broader Topx closed 2.4 percent lower at 1,899.45.

Rubber product, chemical and insurance issues paced the decliners, while air transportation issues bucked the weak trend.

Exporters Toyota, Panasonic, Sharp Corp and Honda Motor lost 2-4 percent as the U.S. dollar slipped into the upper 109-yen range amid safe haven demand.

Heavyweight Softbank Group tumbled 3.5 percent, Uniqlo operator Fast Retailing shed 4.4 percent and robot maker Fanuc gave up 5.6 percent.

Australian markets registered their steepest drop in nearly five weeks as investors fretted over a U.S. rate hike approaching faster than previously expected.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled 133.60 points, or 1.8 percent, to finish at 7,235.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 139.10 points, or 1.8 percent, at 7,485.20.

Financials declined the most, with Commonwealth Bank plunging 5.4 percent after announcing it would sell its general insurance business CommInsure. The other three big banks lost 2-3 percent.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto gave up 2 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, while gold miners Evolution and Newcrest posted modest gains.

Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search dropped 1-3 percent. Boral gained 1.3 percent on news the company would sell its North American building products business for $2.15 billion.

The total value of retail sales in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 0.1 percent month-on-month in May, official data showed today, missing expectations for an increase of 0.5 percent following the 1.1 percent increase in April.

Seoul stocks ended notably lower on concerns about rising prices and possible rate hikes sooner and faster. The Kospi slid 27.14 points, or 0.8 percent, to close at 3,240.79.

Automaker Hyundai Motor shed 0.9 percent and chipmaker SK Hynix lost 2 percent, while pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics rallied 2.2 percent.

New Zealand shares closed lower, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index ending down 52.57 points, or 0.4 percent, at 12,499.36. Mercury NZ shares advanced 1.6 percent. The power company said it would buy Trustpower's gas, telecommunications and retail electricity supply business for NZ$441 million ($305.8 million). Shares of the latter declined 1.7 percent.

U.S. stocks fell sharply on Friday as St. Louis Federal Reserve President Jim Bullard offered a fresh dose of hawkishness, saying he sees an initial interest rate increase happening in 2022.

The Dow fell 1.6 percent to extend losses for the fifth day running and reach its lowest closing level in over two months, while the S&P 500 tumbled 1.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 0.9 percent.

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