Asian markets hit by recovery worries as tech drags Hong Kong

AFP – Asian equities retreated yesterday on growing concerns about the impact of the Delta Coronavirus variant, while Hong Kong’s tech giants led a sharp sell-off after China further tightened its grip on the gaming sector.

After enjoying a broadly healthy run-up at the start of September, markets were again on the back foot as traders reassess their growth outlook for this year in light of the fast-spreading Delta variant.

Wall Street’s three main indexes finished well in the red after the US Federal Reserve’s closely watched Beige Book on the state of the US economy pointed to a slowdown caused by Covid-19 as well as problems with supply and a lack of workers.

It said growth had “downshifted” in July and August, which was “largely attributable to a pullback in dining out, travel, and tourism in most districts, reflecting safety concerns due to the rise of the Delta variant”.

“Looking ahead, businesses in most districts remained optimistic about near-term prospects, though there continued to be widespread concern about ongoing supply disruptions and resource shortages,” it added.

Analysts pointed out that while Covid remained a major headwind, the issue of supplies and cost pressures was noticeably prominent in the report.

“Momentum definitely seems to be slowing as far as the recovery is concerned,” said Fiona Cincotta, at City Index.

“Before we’d been hearing that the Fed would tighten monetary policy and that’s what was unnerving the market. Now, it’s actually slightly softer data and also rising Covid cases.

Tokyo ended down with profit-taking playing a part after the Nikkei rose around five percent over the previous four days, while Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Mumbai, Bangkok, Jakarta and Manila also fell. Shanghai, Singapore and Taipei edged up.

But the standout was Hong Kong, which sank more than 2 percent, dragged by tech giants after Beijing again cracked the whip.

Chinese authorities summoned gaming companies to demand they not focus on profits and “resist unfair competition to prevent excessive market concentration or even monopolies in the industry”.

The state-run Xinhua agency reported that officials also called for the companies – which included Tencent and NetEase – to remove “obscene and violent content” and avoid “unhealthy tendencies, such as money-worship and effeminacy”.

The move comes after authorities last week unveiled rules limiting the amount of time children could spend playing video games.

Chinese authorities summoned gaming companies to demand they not focus on profits and “resist unfair competition to prevent excessive market concentration or even monopolies in the industry”.

The state-run Xinhua agency reported that officials also called for the companies – which included Tencent and NetEase – to remove “obscene and violent content” and avoid “unhealthy tendencies, such as money-worship and effeminacy”.

The move comes after authorities last week unveiled rules limiting the amount of time children could spend playing video games.

The latest announcement hammered industry giants, with Tencent down nearly 6 percent, NetEase tumbling more than 8 percent and Alibaba and JD.com more than 6 percent lower.

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