HONG KONG: Asia stocks extended a global sell-off Friday after a deadly Barcelona rampage claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group compounded mounting fears over policy paralysis in Washington.
Markets from Wall Street to Europe were caught in a renewed downturn after a deadly van attack in the Catalan capital killed 13 and injured more than 100 in a scene of chaos and horror.
Tokyo lead the fall in regional stocks, slumping to its lowest close since early May, with the Nikkei also struggling in the face of the resurgent yen as the dollar sank further in afternoon forex trade.
European stocks slid at the start of trading Friday, while in New York Thursday the S&P 500 Index had tumbled by its second-biggest drop of the year, with financial and technology shares among the worst performers.
US stocks had earlier been hit by rumours Donald Trump’s economic advisor Gary Cohn would resign owing to unhappiness over the US president’s response to a violent rally by racist groups in Charlottesville, although a White House source denied the claims.
Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong was down in afternoon trade with the Hang Seng also dragged lower by market heavyweight Lenovo’s plummeting share price after the Chinese tech giant posted a surprise quarterly loss.
Sydney and Seoul also fell while Shanghai ended flat.
“The attack in Spain and the rising doubt that Trump will be able to push through with his economic policies are among a series of unfortunate events that’s creating uncertainty for investors to pullback and capitalise on their gains,” said Jonathan Ravelas, the chief market strategist at BDO Unibank.
‘24/7 US political melodrama’
Sentiment in the US was also dented after the White House Thursday said Trump had abandoned plans to form an advisory council on infrastructure, worsening business fears he will struggle to enact pledges to boost the economy.
Stock markets had been clawing back losses from last week’s slump over fears of military clashes between North Korea and the US before the latest downturn hit.
Gold rose above $1,290 an ounce, while on forex markets the dollar was falling towards 109 yen as safe haven assets received a boost from the renewed geopolitical tensions.
The greenback was also lower against the euro and the pound Friday.
“The go to currency haven USD/JPY continues to sag … as investors remain unnerved by the 24/7 US political melodrama that’s filling the airwaves,” said Oanda analyst Stephen Innes.
“A very risk off scenario was evident overnight, and I suspect there could be more room for this move to play out as one should surmise we’ve only brushed the surface on the Cohn saga.”
Investors will closely watch a Fed symposium starting on Thursday where the chiefs of the European and US central banks will speak, as they look for clues on policy-setting, analysts said.
On commodities markets, oil eked out modest gains Friday with US crude inching higher than $47 a barrel, following sharp losses earlier in the week on fears of a supply glut.
Traders continue to assess US Energy Information Administration data Wednesday showing American production had its biggest weekly gain since the end of June even as stockpiles slid.