Asia's main stock markets traded lower Friday, but losses were relatively muted as investors took a breather after a global rout sparked by fears over higher US interest rates. Equities in Japan and China were marginally in the red but other smaller markets rebounded into positive territory as the fightback began from a broad-based capitulation over the past two days. In Tokyo, the main Nikkei-225 index began the day more than one per cent lower but bounced back to flirt with positive territory after its mid-session break, down only 0.07 per cent. Chinese stocks, which have seen a ferocious sell-off in recent days, also opened with marginal losses, the benchmark Shanghai Composite shedding 0.36 per cent. But the index also pared its losses and was only just in negative territory after a couple of hours of trade. Official data released earlier Friday showed that China's trade surplus with the US hit a new record in September, despite Washington's tariffs -- likely adding fuel to a spiralling trade war between the world's top two economies.
However, the Kospi index in South Korea was trading one per cent in the green. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong and markets in Australia and New Zealand also climbed. The past two days have seen something approaching panic in global equity markets, as investors took fright in the face of a perfect storm of rising US interest rates and an intensifying trade war between the US and China. The global sell-off was also in part due to US President Donald Trump describing the policies of the Federal Reserve as "loco" and "crazy", sparking concerns over the independence of the world's top central bank. "There's a semblance of sanity returning to the markets, but we are no nearer a significant recovery," Stephen Innes, head of trading for Asia Pacific at Oanda, said in a commentary. Markets are "exhausted after the most significant sell-off in global equities since February," added Innes.
After a see-saw session on Wall Street, the Dow Jones ended 2.1 per cent down, taking its losses for the week to more than five per cent and closing at the lowest levels in months. Frankfurt, Paris and London all lost at least 1.5 per cent as renewed worries over the eurozone came to the fore amid a budgetary scrap between the European Union and Italy. Some experts warned that the correction, which came after many indices had hit multi-year highs, would be more than a flash in the pan. "When we have a recalibration in values, it's not surprising that it takes more than one day," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B Riley FBR. "In these kinds of moves, it usually takes three days to wash out." Most market watchers saw last week's surge in the yield of the 10-year US Treasury bond as the catalyst for the two-day rout in the US.
Yields spiked at an unexpectedly fast rate, prompting worries about a sudden acceleration of inflation and more aggressive Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. Volatility also spread to commodities with big drops in the price of oil after the OPEC cartel cut its forecast for global oil demand. However, these markets also staged a come-back in early Asian trade.