TOKYO: Asian shares fell on Thursday after Wall Street dropped on weaker-than-expected US economic data and a warning from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen that stock valuations were “quite high.”
Tokyo stocks fell 1.23 percent after a three-day holiday. The Nikkei 225 index ended 239.64 points lower at 19,291.99, while the Topix index of all first-section issues was down 0.69 percent, or 10.97 points, to 1,574.64.
Sydney fell for the third straight day, finishing 46.5 points, or 0.82 percent, lower to 5,645.7 as mining stocks slipped despite recent gains in commodity prices.
South Korean shares fell 0.65 percent or 13.58 points to close at 2,091.00 on heavy foreign selling, and Hong Kong was 1.45 percent lower in afternoon trade.
Mainland Chinese markets were also lower on worries regulators may tighten control over margin trading, with Shanghai down 1.41 percent at noon.
Fresh US data was relatively weak. Non-farm productivity fell 1.9 percent in the first quarter year-on-year in the second straight quarterly fall.
Payroll firm ADP meanwhile reported the US added just 169,000 private-sector jobs in April, the second month in a row under 200,000, as the oil sector downturn continued to pinch the labor market.
The figures came ahead of Friday’s highly anticipated Labor Department jobs report.
“The US economy was expected to bottom out in March and recover in the second quarter, but so far the figures for April have been poor,” Mitsushige Akino, executive officer at Ichiyoshi Asset Management in Tokyo, told Bloomberg News.
“Sentiment could sour even more depending on the April payrolls report. Risk-off moves could intensify if the US economic situation is deemed weak.”
Sentiment also took a hit as Yellen warned that US stock markets were at risk of overheating.
“There are potential dangers there,” she told a conference, but added there was no rapid credit growth and “no signs of a financial bubble.”
“I believe we are better positioned now” to see risks, Yellen added.
The comments helped to dampen investors’ spirits with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 0.48 percent, while the S&P 500 was down 0.45 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index lost 0.40 percent.
Investors were also keeping a close eye on the tense situation in cash-strapped Greece, after the European Union and International Monetary Fund hit back Wednesday at accusations by Athens that internal rifts were blocking a bailout deal. AFP