Asia markets see more losses as Easter break approaches


Hong Kong (AFP)

Most Asian stocks extended their selling on Thursday as a volatile week draws to an early close in many markets, while bubbling trade tensions and another painful day for Wall Street technology shares continued to feed uncertainty.

While news of Kim Jong Un's visit to China fuelled fresh hopes for stability on the Korean peninsula, investors have been more occupied with fears about a possible global trade war and a sell-off in the tech sector.

Market titan Facebook has led a plunge in big-name stocks on worries about a regulatory clampdown following a massive data breach at the social media site.

Tesla, Amazon, Twitter and Google parent Alphabet have also come under the cosh, sending the tech-rich Nasdaq southwards, with the index losing 0.9 percent Wednesday. The Dow and S&P 500 also ended in the red.

There was little movement on news that the US economy had grown a lot faster in October-December than previously thought.

In Asia, Hong Kong sank 0.5 percent, extending the previous day's 2.5 percent dive, while Shanghai and Sydney were each 0.4 percent off.

Seoul slipped 0.1 percent, while Wellington and Taipei also fell.

However, Tokyo ended the morning session 0.6 percent higher thanks to a drop in the yen against the dollar. Singapore was up 0.8 percent.

Traders in Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore and Wellington, among others, are also moving to close their positions before the end of the January-March quarter, with the Easter break beginning Friday.

Global markets have taken a hit in recent weeks on fears of a trade war as Donald Trump pushes through his protectionist agenda while the Federal Reserve prepares to lift interest rate hikes and other central banks also look to tighten monetary policies.

And analysts predict further ructions.

"We've done some damage with the correction and it?s going to take some time to repair," Bob Doll, portfolio manager and chief equity strategist at Nuveen Asset Management, told Bloomberg TV.

"Expect choppy, sideways volatility."

- Key figures around 0230 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.6 percent at 21,153.97 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 29,888.89

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,109.66

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 106.80 yen from 106.86 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2317 from $1.2309

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.4070 from $1.4078

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 22 cents at $64.60 per barrel

Oil - Brent North Sea: UP 19 cents at $68.95 (new contract)

New York - Dow: FLAT at 23,848.42 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.6 percent at 7,044.74 (close)