Asia stocks slump to 16-month low

Asia stocks slump to 16-month low

An investor monitors share price movements at Asia Plus Securities’ headquarters on Sathon Road, Bangkok. (File photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya, Bangkok Post)
An investor monitors share price movements at Asia Plus Securities’ headquarters on Sathon Road, Bangkok. (File photo: Pornprom Satrabhaya, Bangkok Post)

Asian stocks tumbled to their lowest since November 2020 as signs Russia’s attack on Ukraine is intensifying further roiled financial markets.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell as much as 1.8% on Friday, as Ukrainian officials said Russian forces have occupied the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant after an attack that caused fire. The gauge is now down 19% from a February 2021 peak, inching closer to bear market territory. 

Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency the fire “has not affected ‘essential’ equipment,” and that there had been no change reported in radiation levels. While stocks fell, haven assets such as sovereign bonds advanced. 

“Markets remain at the mercy of unpredictable Russia/Ukraine headlines, and this latest news regarding the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant has caused an instant reaction,” said Andrew Ticehurst, a rates strategist at Nomura Holdings Inc in Sydney. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell the most in the region as investors sought to assess the impact of the escalating conflict.

Even the region’s energy shares that had been supported so far by a surge in oil prices slid, underscoring the extent of market jitters. The MSCI Asia Pacific Energy Index fell 0.7% as of 16.50pm in Hong Kong, snapping a five-day run of advances.

With Friday’s losses, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index is on track for a third week of declines, longest since a similar losing streak ended early December.

China’s benchmark CSI 300 Index fell 1.2% ahead of the nation’s top political meeting that starts Saturday. Investors are waiting for potential policy signals on the nation’s battered property and tech sectors

In Hong Kong, tech shares took a plunge, in part tracking overnight moves of its peers listed in the United States. The Hang Seng Tech Index fell 4.4% to the lowest since its inception in mid-2020.

“Investors have been very risk averse, so they want to sell the riskier investments, like tech shares,” said Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi International Hong Kong Ltd. “The market is pricing in a longer-term, more severe war scenario.”

- Markets at a glance -

MSCI Asia Pacific Index down 1.6%,

Thailand’s SET Index down 1.1%,

Japan’s Topix index down 2.0%,

Nikkei 225 down 2.2%,

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index down 2.5%, 

Hang Seng China Enterprises down 2.7%,

Shanghai Composite down 1%,

CSI 300 down 1.2%,

Taiwan’s Taiex index down 1.1%,

South Korea’s Kospi index down 1.2%, 

Kospi 200 down 1.5%,

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 down 0.6%, 

New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 down 0.6%,

India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index down 1.1%, 

NSE Nifty 50 down 1.2%,

Singapore’s Straits Times Index down 0.9%, 

Malaysia’s KLCI Index down 0.9%,

Philippine Stock Exchange Index down 0.6%, 

Jakarta Composite Index up 0.9%, 

and Vietnam’s VN Index little changed.

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