HONG KONG: Asian markets fell on Wednesday with a stronger yen sending Tokyo tumbling after a long weekend, while a sell-off on Wall Street and tensions in Ukraine added to downward pressure.
Investors are awaiting the congressional testimony of US Federal Reserve head Janet Yellen later in the day to see if she gives any clues about the state of the economy.
Tokyo—which was closed on Monday and Tuesday for holidays—ended 2.93 percent lower, giving up 424.06 points to 14,033.45 and Sydney slipped 0.83 percent, or 45.6 points, to 5,435.8.
Seoul fell 1.00 percent, or 19.56 points, to 1,939.88, while Shanghai dropped 0.89 percent, or 17.96 points, to 2,010.08 and Hong Kong sank 1.05 percent, or 230.07 points, to 21,746.26.
New York’s three main indexes turned lower on Tuesday as Twitter dived almost 18 percent after the end of a lockup period for early shareholders, enabling them to sell for the first time since November’s listing.
The Dow sank 0.78 percent, the S&P 500 dropped 0.90 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq lost 1.38 percent.
Analysts said that despite Friday’s better-than-expected jump in new jobs for April, investors feared there was still underlying weakness in the economy.
Events in Eastern Europe are also fuelling bearishness.
Russia has rejected a plan to end the escalating crisis in Ukraine, where several cities in the east have been taken over by pro-Moscow rebels, against whom the Western-back government has launched a military offensive.
As President Vladimir Putin prepares to meet the head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kiev said that the death toll from an assault on a rebel-held flashpoint town had climbed to more than 34, increasing fears of a civil war.
The West, which is threatening to broaden sanctions on Russia over the unrest, sees a May 25 presidential poll in Ukraine as crucial to hauling the country back from the brink.
Euro supported by debt sale
In foreign exchange trading the dollar bought 101.51 yen in Tokyo Wednesday, compared with 101.73 yen late in New York Tuesday and much lower than the 102.36 yen in Asia on Friday before the Japanese holidays.
Eyes are now on Yellen’s statement at a Senate hearing of the Joint Economic Committee later in the day, looking for a steer on the US economic outlook and the bank’s plans for its stimulus program.
The euro also held up against the dollar thanks to improved confidence in the eurozone after Italy’s long-term borrowing costs fell below the three percent level for the first time since the creation of the single currency.
That followed a similar fall in Spanish 10-year bondslast week.
The euro bought $1.3923 and 141.35 yen Wednesday, compared with $1.3926 and 141.67 yen in New York.
Oil prices rose. The US benchmark, West Texas Intermediate for June delivery, gained 99 cents to $100.49 a barrel in afternoon trade, while Brent North Sea crude for June rose 33 cents to $107.39.
Gold fetched $1,313.20 at 8:40 a.m. local time compared with $1,307.94 on Tuesday.