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Asia markets sell off as Hong Kong’s Hang Seng falls more than 2% and Tencent shares plunge

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SINGAPORE — Most Asia-Pacific markets fell sharply in Thursday trade after heavy losses on Wall Street overnight.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led losses regionally, falling 2.25% by the afternoon. Shares of Chinese tech behemoth Tencent plunged 6.62% after reporting that its quarterly profit halved.

Other Chinese tech stocks in Hong Kong also saw heavy losses, with Alibaba falling 6.06% while Meituan shed 3.2%. The Hang Seng Tech index traded 3.4% lower.

Mainland Chinese stocks declined, with the Shanghai Composite fractionally lower while the Shenzhen Component declined 0.247%.

On one hand, investors are sort of worried that inflation is going to take hold and hurt earnings … which is obviously very damaging for investors. But on the other hand, they’re equally as concerned about growth opportunities.
Mark Konyn
group chief investment officer, AIA

The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 1.75% while the Topix index shed 1.31%. Japan’s exports rose 12.5% year-on-year in April, data from the country’s Ministry of Finance showed Thursday. That was lower than expectations for a 13.8% increase, according to Reuters.

South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.34%, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia slipped 1.61%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 1.91% lower.

There’s currently a “bifurcation” in market sentiment, said AIA’s Mark Konyn.

“On one hand, investors are sort of worried that inflation is going to take hold and hurt earnings, and change the rating on equity markets, which is obviously very damaging for investors. But on the other hand, they’re equally as concerned about growth opportunities,” Konyn, group chief investment officer at the firm, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Thursday.

“As we saw last night, we saw guidance from Target, we’ve seen guidance from Walmart suggesting that margins are under pressure and immediately investors ran for the hills,” he said.

UOB Private Bank Investment Strategist, Francis Tan, said sentiment is likely playing a much bigger role than fundamentals in the markets currently.

“We have seen that the markets consistently have been looking for things to be negative on,” Tan told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Thursday. He added that fundamentals in Asia — much stronger today as compared with two or three decades ago — are likely to eventually prevail.

Major indexes on Wall Street tumbled, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing at its lowest since March 2021. The Dow dropped 1,164.52 points, or 3.57%, to 31,490.07.

The S&P 500 slipped 4.04% to 4,923.68, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 4.73% to 11,418.15.

Australia’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for April was at 3.9%, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed Thursday.

“3.9 per cent is the lowest the unemployment rate has been in the monthly survey. The last time the unemployment rate was lower than this was in August 1974, when the survey was quarterly,” Bjorn Jarvis, head of labor statistics at the ABS, said in a release.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 103.599 — off levels below 103.5 seen earlier in the week.

The Japanese yen traded at 128.88 per dollar, still stronger than levels above 129 seen yesterday against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.7017, against an earlier low of $0.695.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 1.61% to $110.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures climbed 1.09% to $110.78 per barrel.

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