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Asian stocks stumble on China tech worries

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man watches an electric board showing Nikkei index outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan, June 21, 2021. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

By Kevin Buckland

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian stocks were mixed on Monday amid growing worries about China’s crackdown on local tech companies, paring earlier gains made after a welcome U.S. jobs report drove global shares to a record high.

The region’s biggest markets, Japan and China, both declined. The Nikkei fell 0.6% following a surge in COVID-19 infections in Tokyo, just weeks before the city hosts the Olympics. (T)

Chinese tech firms slumped amid concerns over Beijing’s crackdown on ride-hailing giant Didi Global and scrutiny of other platform companies in the country.

That pushed Chinese blue chips down 0.4% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.8% lower, weighing on MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan, which swung into negative territory. [.SS]

Taiwan shares were a standout, rallying 1.2%, while South Korea’s Kospi added 0.3%.

Trading was thinner than usual with U.S. markets closed for the extended 4th of July weekend, meaning “price action might be choppy,” and markets may be “trading on their own regional idiosyncrasies rather than a macro thematic,” said Kyle Rodda, a market analyst at IG in Melbourne.

“But given Friday’s nonfarm payrolls numbers, things are still really, really optimistic, and I think you’ll start to see that come through again as the week unfolds,” Rodda said.

“Conditions are right for equities to continue to push higher right across the globe.”

The MSCI All Country World index closed at a record 724.66 last week, and edged slightly higher on Monday despite Asian headwinds.

European equity futures pointed to minor gains, with Euro Stoxx 50 futures marginally higher, while FTSE futures rose 0.1%.

S&P 500 futures signalled a 0.2% dip for Tuesday’s open, after the index closed 0.8% higher at a record on Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.4% and the Nasdaq Composite added 0.8% to also hit a record. (N)

U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased by a bigger-than-expected 850,000 jobs last month. But the unemployment rate unexpectedly ticked up to 5.9% from 5.8%, while the closely watched average hourly earnings, a gauge of wage inflation, rose 0.3% last month, lower than the consensus forecast for a 0.4% increase.

“The goldilocks print suggests there is no need to accelerate the tapering timeline or the implied rate hike profile,” Tapas Strickland, an analyst at National Australia Bank (OTC:NABZY), wrote in a client note.

“Overall the level of payrolls is still 6.8 million below pre-pandemic February 2020 levels and is still below the level of substantial progress needed by the Fed. As such there is nothing in this report for the Fed to become hawkish about.”

Eyes will be trained on the minutes of the Federal Open Markets Committee meeting from last month, when policymakers surprised markets by signalling two rate hikes by the end of 2023.

Commentary by Fed officials since then has been more balanced, particularly from Chair Jerome Powell, and investors parse Wednesday’s release for further clues on the timing of policy tightening.

The dollar was mostly flat on Monday after dropping from a three-month high at the end of last week, pressured by the weaker details of the U.S. payrolls report.

The greenback was 0.1% stronger at 111.110 yen, and gained slightly to $1.18615 per euro.

Gold edged down 0.1% to $1,785.03 an ounce.

Crude oil was rangebound as OPEC+ talks dragged on. Saudi Arabia’s energy minister pushed back on Sunday against opposition by fellow Gulf producer the United Arab Emirates to a proposed OPEC+ deal and called for “compromise and rationality” to secure agreement when the group reconvenes on Monday.

Brent crude added 7 cents to $76.24 a barrel, and U.S. crude lost 4 cents to $75.20 a barrel. [O/R]

Asian stocks stumble on China tech worries