HONG KONG-Asian markets posted sharp losses on Monday after falls in US tech stocks and as concerns over China’s property sector weighed on sentiment.
Leading the losers in Hong Kong -- where shares closed down more than one percent -- was developer Country Garden, after it missed bond payments and warned of multi-billion-dollar losses, deepening concerns over China’s heavily indebted real estate sector.
Its shares were down more than 18 percent at the close, days after its billionaire boss Yang Huiyan said the firm was “facing the greatest difficulties since our establishment”. Privately owned Country Garden is on Forbes’ list of the 500 largest companies in the world.
The firm has long been deemed financially solid but was unable last Monday to make two bond payments, and after a 30-day grace period, the company risks defaulting in September if it still cannot pay. Like its heavily indebted competitor Evergrande, any collapse of Country Garden would have catastrophic repercussions for the Chinese financial system and economy.
Fears for Chinese property companies were causing regional markets’ gradual decline, Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management wrote in a note. “This negative sentiment has spread to other Asian markets, resulting in a generally subdued atmosphere across all exchanges,” he said. Singapore dipped by more than one percent, and Tokyo closed down by a similar amount.
During the morning, the dollar was fetching 145.10 yen, its strongest level against the Japanese currency since November. But the yen rebounded throughout the day, and was trading at 144.80 per dollar when the market closed, against 144.93 yen seen Friday in New York. Shanghai and Manila were also down. European markets opened little changed, with traders keeping a wary eye on China, as well as US inflation risks. In London, shares fell 0.2 percent, while Paris was flat and Frankfurt edged up 0.2 percent. The ruble slid past 100 against the dollar, its lowest level since March 23, 2022 -- shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Stock markets had wavered on Friday after US data showed a bigger-than-expected rise in wholesale inflation, with traders weighing the likelihood of more interest rate hikes this year. All eyes will be on the US retail sales report for July and the minutes of the July 26 Federal Open Market Committee meeting. Wholesale prices in the United States picked up in July on a surge in services costs, according to government data released Friday.A