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Asian shares at 1-month low, default fears stalk China Evergrande

Asian shares at 1-month low, default fears stalk China Evergrande

FILE PHOTO: A man looks at a board showing stock prices outside a brokerage in Tokyo, Japan, January 6, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

SYDNEY: Asian shares skidded and the dollar firmed on Monday (Sep 20) ahead of a week packed with global central bank meetings, with a torrid session for the world's most indebted property developer China Evergrande dragging Hong Kong stocks to a near one-year low.

Holidays in Japan, China and South Korea kept trading thin, and politics added extra uncertainty with elections in Canada and Germany bookending the week.

Shares of China Evergrande plummeted more than 15 per cent after earlier losing as much as 19 per cent to over 11-year lows. Its listed units also fell, as investors worried about the real estate developer's ability to repay a small portion of its US$305 billion debt due this Thursday.

Evergrande's troubles added to growing concerns about the health of China's economy after Beijing's recent crackdown on tech firms had haunted the region. The Hang Seng index shed 4 per cent, while Singapore-traded FTSE China futures fell by just as much.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slid 1.8 per cent to its lowest since Aug 24, with Australia down sharply by 2 per cent.

"It's part of a correction which was due to some degree, and partly reflects prevailing uncertainties about the growth outlook," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital.

"And then, of course, that's continued in the Asia time zone with the concerns about Evergrande in China adding to that weakness."

Dow Jones futures were down 1 per cent and S&P 500 futures declined 0.8 per cent, after all three Wall Street indexes marked weekly losses on Friday after days of turbulence.

The Fed is still expected to lay the groundwork for a tapering at its policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, though the consensus is for an actual announcement to be delayed until the November or December meetings.

Yields on 10-year Treasuries touched a two-month top and the curve flattened ahead of the meeting.

"A flatter yield curve suggests some fears the Fed may overdo the eventual hiking cycle," cautioned Tapas Strickland, a director of economics at NAB.

He noted only two to three FOMC members would need to shift their "dot plot" forecasts for a hike in 2022 to make it the median, given seven of 18 had already tipped a move next year.

Investors were also keeping an eye on a dozen other central bank meetings in Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, the UK, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and Hungary.

The Norges Bank is expected to become the first G10 central bank to lift rates on Thursday.

A spike in US yields and general risk aversion in the markets sent the dollar to a one-month high at 93.356 against a basket of rival currencies.

It was range bound on the yen at 109.88, while the euro was at its lowest in three-weeks at $1.1710 as uncertainty ahead of Germany's election this weekend weighed.

Canada goes to the polls on Monday with the race too close to call.

The stronger dollar kept gold and oil subdued, with the bullion pinned at US$1,748 an ounce after losing 1.9 per cent last week.

Crude prices also took a hit from energy companies in the US Gulf of Mexico resuming production after back-to-back hurricanes in the region shut output.

Brent fell 48 cents to US$74.86 a barrel, while US crude lost 55 cents to US$71.42.

Source: Reuters/aj

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