Asian markets tumble with Wall St as Facebook breach hits tech

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Hong Kong (AFP)

Asian markets sank on Tuesday following sharp losses in New York as a massive data breach at Facebook fuelled fears of a regulatory crackdown on the technology sector.

The scandal at the social media giant come as investors fret over a possible increase in the rate of US interest rate hikes and Donald Trump steps up his protectionist rhetoric that has sparked talk of a global trade war.

Reports said Cambridge Analytica, the analysis firm hired by Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, stole data from 50 million Facebook user profiles to help design software to predict and influence voters' choices.

Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA, warned: "This security breach could end up being a significant turning point for the social media and network portal."

The news hammered tech giants with Facebook plunging 6.8 percent, while other household names were also hit -- including Apple, Google-parent Alphabet and Netflix -- by regulatory concerns.

"The adults are starting to realise that the altruistic kids who started some of these tech behemoths are either unwilling or unable to deal with the fact that the companies they wrought and thought were a force for good can be manipulated by those who seek to do ill," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

The US losses filtered through to Asia, with Hong Kong-listed internet giant Tencent and AAC Technologies sharply lower. Samsung retreated in Seoul, while Sony was one percent lower in Tokyo.

On broader markets Japan's Nikkei went into the break more than one percent lower, while Hong Kong shed 0.6 percent and Sydney was off 0.5 percent.

Shanghai dropped 0.3 percent, Singapore gave up 0.2 percent and Seoul retreated 0.4 percent, with Wellington, Manila, Taipei and Jakarta all sharply down.

Investors are keeping a close watch on the Federal Reserve's policy meeting this week looking for clues about its timetable for tightening monetary policy. Opinion is split on the number of rate hikes it will likely announce this year, with some forecasting three and others saying four.

Market-watchers warn a G20 meeting of finance ministers in Argentina could also revive tensions on international trade after Trump unveiled his controversial tariffs this month.

On currency markets the pound extended gains against the dollar after Britain and European Union leaders agreed a post-Brexit transition deal that will buy businesses and citizens time to adjust to life after the divorce.

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.0 percent at 21268.93 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.6 percent at 31,311.83

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2345 from $1.2290 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4038 from $1.3942

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.23 yen from 106.01 yen

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 19 cents at $62.25 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 18 cents at $66.23 per barrel

New York - Dow: DOWN 1.4 percent at 24,610.91 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 1.7 percent at 7,042.93 (close)