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Asia stocks fall, oil stymied as growth worries grip global markets



TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks slid on Wednesday as intensifying concerns about global economic growth gripped financial markets, sending Wall Street shares and crude oil prices tumbling and driving the safe haven dollar up from a two-week low.

FILE PHOTO: An investor sits in front of displays showing stock information at a brokerage office in Beijing, China October 11, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.6 percent.

The Shanghai Composite Index swerved in and out of the red and was last down 0.2 percent.

Australian stocks lost 0.6 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI retreated 0.85 percent and Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.7 percent.

U.S. stocks sold off for a second day on Tuesday as energy shares dropped with oil prices, while retailers including Target and Kohl’s sank after weak earnings and forecasts, fuelling worries about economic growth. [.N]

The Nasdaq closed at its lowest in more than seven months on Tuesday while the S&P 500 and Dow ended at their weakest since late October.

“It is difficult to pinpoint a single factor driving the global risk aversion. Apple and trade tensions seem to be touted as factors every other day, but it is difficult to blame them for all the woes,” said Soichiro Monji, senior economist at Daiwa SB Investments.

“The markets appear to be starting to prepare for a loss of momentum in the global economy, although it is doing quite well at the moment.”

The recent downturn in global equities has been led in part by a decline in U.S. technology shares, a group which had helped propel Wall Street’s long bull market.

“We are anticipating more weakness in China, and a sharp slowdown in the United States next year. Given the highly-cyclical nature of the information technology (IT) sector, we have been arguing for a while that growth in its earnings would be hit especially hard in these circumstances,” wrote economists at Capital Economics.

The dollar index against a basket of six major currencies was little changed at 96.838 after rallying 0.7 percent overnight, when it pulled away from a two-week trough of 96.042.

Earlier in the week, cautious comments by Federal Reserve officials about the global economic outlook knocked the dollar to two-week troughs as they suggested the central bank could slow the pace of or even end its monetary policy tightening cycle.

The euro was effectively flat at $1.1369 after sinking 0.75 percent the previous day.

The dollar rose 0.25 percent to 112.92 yen.

The Australian dollar, sensitive to shifts in risk sentiment, crawled up 0.2 percent to $0.7229 following a 1 percent slide the previous day.

Commodity currencies such as the Canadian dollar struggled in the wake of tumbling crude prices.

The Canadian dollar was stuck near a five-month low of C$1.3318 per dollar plumbed on Tuesday, when it shed more than 1 percent.

Oil prices managed to stabilize after Tuesday’s slump. But the market remained shaky, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) warning of unprecedented uncertainty in oil markets due to the economic environment and political risk. [O/R]

U.S. crude futures were up 1.2 percent at $54.08 per barrel after retreating roughly 6 percent to $52.77 on Tuesday, its lowest since late October 2017, caught in a broader Wall Street selloff fed by mounting concerns about a slowdown in global economic growth.

Brent crude bounced 1.2 percent to $63.28 per barrel after sliding more than 6 percent on Tuesday, when it plumbed a near one-year low of $61.71. The contracts had reached a four-year high above $86.00 at the start of October.

Reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro; Editing by Eric Meijer and Sam Holmes