SHANGHAI: Asian shares fell on Friday, extending their biggest monthly drop since the height of global pandemic lockdowns last March on lingering investor concern over regulatory crackdowns in China on the education, property and tech sectors.
Losses deepened even after reassurances from Chinese regulators and official media that helped to soothe investors' nerves a day earlier, and following indications from the U.S. Federal Reserve that its bond-buying programme will remain unchanged for now.
A continuing outbreak of Delta variant COVID-19 cases in China's coastal province of Jiangsu also weighed on the mood on Friday.
Futures pointed to a lower open for European share markets. Euro Stoxx 50 futures fell 0.8%, German DAX futures fell 0.79% and FTSE futures slipped 0.68%.
"It's clear investors are very rattled by the regulatory crackdown," said Michael Frazis, portfolio manager at Frazis Capital Partners in Sydney, while adding that the market continues to face other near-term pressure.
"You will have talk about tapering, and you do have a lot of coronavirus beneficiaries which are largely in the tech sector. (Earnings) growth will be slow, and they will be reporting numbers off of very high bases for this time last year... We expect tech indices to be challenged in the near term, but we're very optimistic over the medium and long term." On Friday, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.33%, taking its losses for the month to more than 7%. Japan's Nikkei dipped 1.80%, its 11th straight month of falls on the last trading day in the month.
Chinese blue-chips fell 1.06%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 2.11%, with tech stocks once again dragging. The Hang Seng Tech index shed more than 4%, deepening its fall for the month to more than 18%. Seoul's Kospi fell 1.16%.
The falls in Asia came despite robust U.S. earnings and forecasts, as well as strong second-quarter economic growth figures, that helped to lift Wall Street to record intraday highs on Thursday.
The U.S. economy grew past pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter, helped by rising vaccinations and government aid, though the expansion fell short of expectations and rising COVID-19 infections are clouding the outlook for the current quarter.
Lower-than-expected revenue reported by Amazon.com Inc on Thursday, and the company's forecast of slower sales growth in the coming quarters weighed on U.S. stock futures.
Nasdaq e-mini futures slid 1.30% and S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.79%.
FLATTER CURVE After rising Thursday on U.S. economic data, U.S. Treasury yields pulled back, particularly toward the long end of the yield curve.
Benchmark 10-year notes last yielded 1.2456%, down from 1.269% late on Thursday, and the 30-year yield stood at 1.9013%, down from 1.916% on Thursday.
The spread between the U.S. 10-year and 2-year yield narrowed to 106.6 basis points.
"We think bond yields now discount an unduly pessimistic view of the medium- to long-term outlook... The prospects for a robust recovery - and higher bond yields - are arguably much better," analysts at Capital Economics said in a client note.
But following Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's statement earlier this week that rate increases are "a ways away" and the job market still had "some ground to cover", the dollar wallowed near one-month lows on Friday and was set for its worst week since May.
The dollar index was last up 0.09% at 91.968, with the euro down 0.06% at $1.1879. The greenback was 0.1% higher against the yen at 109.57.
In commodities markets, oil prices fell back after global benchmark Brent on Thursday topped $76 a barrel on tight U.S. supplies.
Brent was down 0.53% at $75.65 per barrel and U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude traded down 0.52% at $73.24. Brent crude is still up nearly 2% for the week.
Spot gold was little changed at $1,827.31 an ounce, but was set for its best week in more than two months on the prospect of delayed Fed tapering. - Reuters