Asian shares fall as Facebook data flap spooks tech stocks


20 March, 2018 11:23 AM

Asian shares fall as Facebook data flap spooks tech stocks

A- A A+

Asian shares fell on Tuesday after investors took profits in high-flying US technology shares on fears of stiffer regulation as Facebook came under fire following reports it allowed improper access to user data.

The retreat came as investors braced for new Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s first policy meeting starting later in the day and amid concerns that US President Donald Trump could impose additional protectionist trade measures.

“U.S. tech indexes, including Nasdaq and Philadelphia semi-conductor index . SOX all hit record highs last week. So they were prone to profit-taking,” said Mutsumi Kagawa, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities.

“Shares will be capped by various uncertainties for now. Once those uncertainties are cleared, investors will shift their focus back to relatively attractive valuations,” he added.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS dropped 0.4 percent. Japan's Nikkei .N225 fell 1.0 percent.

On Wall Street the S&P 500 .SPX lost 1.42 percent and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC 1.84 percent, both suffering their worst day in five weeks.

“Investors lightened their positions ahead of the Fed’s policy meeting. The markets are completely split on whether the Fed will project three rate hikes this year or four,” said Hiroaki Mino, senior strategist at Mizuho Securities.

Facebook (FB.O) led the losses, tumbling 6.8 percent as the social media colossus faced demands from US and European lawmakers to explain how a consultancy that worked on President Donald Trump’s election campaign gained improper access to data on 50 million Facebook users.

In addition, worries about the potential for a trade war cast a shadow after US President Trump imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The Trump administration is also expected to unveil up to $60 billion in new tariffs on Chinese imports by Friday, targeting technology, telecommunications and intellectual property, two officials briefed on the matter said Monday.

U.S. businesses were alarmed with several large US retail companies, including Wal-Mart Inc (WMT.N) and Target Corp (TGT.N), on Monday urging Trump not to impose massive tariffs on goods imported from China.

The sharp fall in share prices put a lid on long-term U.S. bond yields while short-dated yields rose ahead of an expected rate hike from the US Federal Reserve after its two-day policy meeting starting on Tuesday.

The yield on 10-year Treasuries was little changed at 2.857 percent US10YT=RR, 10 basis points below the four-year high of 2.957 percent touched a month ago.

But the yield on two-year notes US2YT=RR hit a 9 1/2-year high of 2.32 percent on Monday as the Fed appears set to bump up its policy interest rates USFFTARGET= to 1.50-1.75 percent from the current 1.25-1.50 percent.

Still, with a Fed rate rise already fully priced in, the dollar barely gained from the prospect of a rate hike. Instead, it was the euro that stole the spotlight after Reuters reported that European Central Bank officials were shifting their debate from bond purchases to the expected path of interest rates.

The euro EUR= rose to $1.2345, bouncing back from $1.2258 hit the previous day.

The British pound GBP=D4 hit one-month high of $1.4088 after Britain and the European Union agreed to a 21-month post-Brexit transition period and a potential solution to avoid a "hard border" for Northern Ireland.

It was last at $1.4037.

The yen was little changed at 106.01 per dollar JPY=, with traders wary of any new developments in a cronyism scandal that has eroded support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Oil prices barely moved as investors remained wary of growing crude supply although tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran provided some support.

Brent crude futures LCOc1 traded at $66.19 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 were $62.16 a barrel.