Asian shares skidded Friday after rising bond yields triggered a broad sell-off on Wall Street that erased the markets gain for the week and handed the Nasdaq composite index its steepest loss since October.
Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney all fell 2% or more in early trading Friday.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 3.5% on Thursday while the S&P 500 dropped 2.4%, led lower by heavy selling in technology and communications companies.
The sell-off gained momentum when the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved above 1.5%, a level not seen in more than a year and far above the 0.92% it was trading at only two months ago. That move raised the alarm on Wall Street that yields, and the interest rates they influence, will move higher from here.
Early Friday, the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was 1.47%.
Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 lost 2.4% to 29,446.17, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.2% to 29,412.50. The Shanghai Composite index lost 1.5% to 3,530.08. South Korea’s Kospi declined 2.8% to 3,012.11. The S&P/ASX 200 slipped 2% to 6,695.60.
Shares fell in all other regional markets apart from Malaysia.
Bond yields have been rising this month, reflecting growing confidence among investors that the economy is on the path to recovery, but also expectations that inflation is headed higher, which might prompt central banks eventually to raise interest rates to cool price hikes. Rising yields can make stocks look less attractive relative to bonds to some investors, which is why every tick up in yields has corresponded with a tick down in stock prices.
In the past, such situations have triggered sell-offs in what has been called a “taper tantrum,” referring to a possible tapering off of monetary stimulus.
“This feels like a washout of ‘safe’ positions, and ultimately the market will continue to test the Fed’s resolve to keep a lid on rates. We’re in a precarious spot where any additional easing might be misinterpreted as the Fed losing faith in its own ability to control the market, which would be self-reinforcing,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.
The S&P 500 index fell 96.09 points to 3,829.34. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1.8%, to 31,402.01. The Nasdaq slid 478.54 points to 13,119.43.
Smaller company stocks fared worse than the rest of the market. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks lost 84.21 points, or 3.7%, to 2,200.17. The index has been far outpacing larger indexes, a signal that investors expect broader growth to continue.
The U.S. economy grew at an annual pace of 4.1% in the final three months of 2020, slightly faster than first estimated, the government reported. Higher government spending and accelerated vaccine distribution could lift growth in the current quarter, ending in March, to 5% or even higher, economists believe.
Economies in Asia are also on the mend, though rollouts of vaccines lag behind the U.S. effort and pandemic-related travel restrictions and quarantine requirements are still in effect for many countries.
Technology stocks, which tend to have higher valuations, have been one of the victims of the rise in bond yields. As bond yields climb, more investors shift money into those higher yielding assets, which tends to negatively impact stocks that are priced for growth.
Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft — all companies that pushed the stock market higher last year — fell 2.4% or more.
Global stock markets have soared over the past six months on optimism about coronavirus vaccines and central bank promises of abundant credit to support struggling economies. Those sentiments have faltered due to warnings the rally might be too early and that inflation might rise.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has affirmed the Fed’s commitment to low interest rates in testimony to legislators in Washington this week.
The central bank earlier indicated it would allow the economy to run hot to make sure a recovery is well-established following its deepest slump since the 1930s. Powell said it might take more than three years to hit the Fed’s target of 2% inflation.
Investors also are looking for Congress to approve President Joe Biden’s proposed economic aid plan. That includes $1,400 checks to most Americans. However, the plan faces staunch opposition from Republicans and is still subject to negotiations. Democrats have chosen to use the legislative process known as reconciliation that would allow them to pass the bill without GOP support.
In other trading Friday, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 36 cents to $63.17 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 31 cents to $53.22 per barrel on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 29 cents to $65.82 per barrel.
The dollar fell to 105.98 Japanese yen from 106.20 yen on Thursday. The euro slipped to $1.2171 from $1.2177.
Struggling luxury car brand Jaguar will be fully electric by 2025, the British company said Monday as it outlined a plan to phase out internal combustion engines.
Jaguar Land Rover, which is owned by Indian conglomerate Tata Motors, hopes the move will help turn around the fortunes of the 86-year-old Jaguar brand, which for many epitomizes class but has struggled in recent years.
The switch to an electric future will involve moving car production from JLR’s Castle Bromwich factory east of the central England city of Birmingham to nearby Solihull.
Chief Executive Thierry Bollore said the firm is “exploring opportunities to repurpose” the Castle Bromwich plant, leading to speculation it could be used for battery production.
Jaguar Land Rover also said that the far more profitable Land Rover brand will produce its first all-electric model in 2024 as it, too, phases out internal combustion engines.
“We have all the ingredients at our disposal to reimagine the business and the experiences our customers seek, to reimagine to benchmark of luxury,” Bollore said.
The move was welcomed by British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as “a huge step for British car manufacturing.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the British car industry’s lobby group, said the announcement represents “an injection of confidence” into the sector, which has suffered over the past year during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Its roadmap to a future that is built around sustainability, with electrified and hydrogen models as well as investment in connected and digital technologies, aligns with government ambition and increasing consumer expectations,” said the SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes.
However, he said the U.K. will need to improve its competitiveness in light of the “fierce” global competition going on in the shift to electric cars, not least from the likes of Tesla.
“Government must ensure advanced manufacturing has its full support, with a policy framework and plan for growth that reduces costs, accelerates domestic battery production and electrified supply chains, and incentivises R&D and skills development,” he said.
Global shares mostly rose Monday amid hopes economies slammed by the pandemic will bounce back, as attention turned to upcoming company earnings.
France’s CAC 40 slipped 0.2% in early trading to 5,551.47. Germany’s DAX inched up nearly 0.1% to 13,886.27. Britain’s FTSE 100 added nearly 0.1% to 6,700.34. U.S. shares were set for modest gains, with Dow futures up nearly 0.2% at 30,962. S&P 500 futures were trading at 3,847.88, up 0.4%.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.7% to finish at 28,822.29. Australia’s S&P/ASX200 added 0.4% to 6,824.70. South Korea’s Kospi gained 2.2% to 3,208.99. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 2.4% to 30,159.01, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.5% to 3,624.24.
Hopes are high that once the pandemic comes under some control, regional economies will make strong recoveries, with lockdowns easing and vaccines rollouts starting in various places, including Singapore.
“Vaccine breakthroughs make it likely that life will become more functional again at some point in 2021, resulting in higher GDP growth and more robust corporate earnings,” Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at Axi, said in a report.
“But increasing global COVID19 infections, new variants of the virus, tightening social distancing restrictions and delays in vaccine rollouts in some places, all increase the near-term growth risks,” he said.
Markets have been mostly rallying recently on hopes that COVID-19 vaccines will lead to a powerful economic recovery later this year as daily life gets closer to normal. Hopes are also high that Washington will deliver another dose of stimulus for the economy now that the White House and both houses of Congress are under single control of the Democrats.
President Joe Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion plan to send $1,400 to most Americans and deliver other support for the economy. But his party holds only the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, raising doubts about how much can be approved. Several Republicans have already voiced opposition to parts of the plan.
The coronavirus pandemic is also worsening and doing more damage to the economy by the day.
In China, where the pandemic began in late 2019, the government has reimposed travel controls after outbreaks in Beijing and other cities. A spike in infections has authorities calling on the public to avoid travel during February’s Lunar New Year holiday, normally the year’s most important family event.
Massive support from central banks is providing a major underpinning for the markets. The Federal Reserve and others are holding short-term interest rates at record lows, among other measures to support economies until the pandemic can be brought under control.
Also Read: Global economy to shrink by 3.2pc: UN report
In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude rose 34 cents to $52.61 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 86 cents to $52.27 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard edged up 30 cents to $55.71 a barrel.
The U.S. dollar fell to 103.74 Japanese yen from 103.83 yen late Friday. The euro cost $1.2175, up from $1.2169.
Global foreign direct investment collapsed in 2020, falling by 42% to an estimated $859 billion from $1.5 trillion in 2019.
The FDI finished 2020 more than 30% below the trough after the global financial crisis in 2009 and back at a level last seen in the 1990s.
UNCTAD published its 38th Global Investment Trends Monitor on Monday.
The decline was concentrated in developed countries, where FDI flows fell by 69% to an estimated $229 billion.
Flows to Europe dried up completely to -4 billion, including large negative flows in several countries.
A sharp decrease was also recorded in the United States (-49%) to $134 billion.
The decline in developing economies was relatively measured at -12% to an estimated $616 billion.
The share of developing economies in global FDI reached 72% – the highest share on record.
China topped the ranking of the largest FDI recipients.
The fall in FDI flows across developing regions was uneven, with -37% in Latin America and the Caribbean, -18% in Africa and -4% in developing countries in Asia. East Asia was the largest host region, accounting for one-third of global FDI in 2020. FDI to transition economies declined by 77% to $13 billion.
Trends in selected economies
FDI in China, where the early phase of the pandemic caused steep drops in capital expenditures, ended the year with a small increase (+4%).
FDI in India rose by 13%, boosted by investments in the digital sector.
FDI in ASEAN – an engine of FDI growth throughout the last decade – was down 31%.
The halving of FDI inflows to the United States was due to sharp drops in both greenfield investment and cross-border mergers and acquisitions (M&As).
FDI in the EU fell by two thirds, with major declines in all the largest recipients; flows to the United Kingdom fell to zero.
FDI trend expected to remain weak in 2021
Looking ahead, the FDI trend is expected to remain weak in 2021.
Data on an announcement basis, an indicator of forward trends, provides a mixed picture and point at continued downward pressure:
Sharply lower greenfield project announcements (-35% in 2020) suggest a turnaround in industrial sectors is not yet in sight.
Upticks in the fourth quarter of 2020 dampened earlier declines in newly announced international project finance deals (-2% for the full year).
Also Read: FDI flows to developing economies decreased by 16pc: Unctad
International investment in infrastructure sectors could thus prove stronger, also buoyed by economic support packages in developed countries.
Similarly, the 2020 decline in cross-border M&As (-10%) was cushioned by higher values in the last part of the year. Looking at M&A announcements, strong deal activity in technology and pharmaceutical industries is expected to push M&A-driven FDI flows higher.
For developing countries, the trends in greenfield and project finance announcements are a major concern.
Although overall FDI flows in developing economies appear relatively resilient, greenfield announcements fell by 46% (-63% in Africa; -51% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and -38% in Asia) and international project finance by 7% (-40% in Africa).
Also Read: UNCTAD projects 7-9 pc year-on-year drop in 2020 global trade
These investment types are crucial for productive capacity and infrastructure development and thus for sustainable recovery prospects.
Risks related to the latest wave of the pandemic, the pace of the roll-out of vaccination programmes and economic support packages, fragile macroeconomic situations in major emerging markets, and uncertainty about the global policy environment for investment will all continue to affect FDI in 2021.
Amazon won’t be forced to immediately restore web service to Parler after a federal judge ruled Thursday against a plea to reinstate the fast-growing social media app, which is favored by followers of former President Donald Trump.
U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein in Seattle said she wasn’t dismissing Parler’s “substantive underlying claims” against Amazon, but said it had fallen short in demonstrating the need for an injunction forcing it back online.
Amazon kicked Parler off its web-hosting service on Jan. 11. In court filings, it said the suspension was a “last resort” to block Parler from harboring violent plans to disrupt the presidential transition.
The Seattle tech giant said Parler had shown an “unwillingness and inability” to remove a slew of dangerous posts that called for the rape, torture and assassination of politicians, tech executives and many others.
The social media app, a magnet for the far right, sued to get back online, arguing that Amazon Web Services had breached its contract and abused its market power. It said Trump was likely on the brink of joining the platform, following a wave of his followers who flocked to the app after Twitter and Facebook expelled Trump after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Rothstein said she rejected “any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.” She also faulted Parler for providing ”only faint and factually inaccurate speculation” about Amazon and Twitter colluding with one another to shut Parler down.
Parler said Thursday it was disappointed by the ruling but remains confident it will “ultimately prevail in the main case,” which it says will have “broad implications for our pluralistic society.” Amazon said it welcomed the ruling and emphasized that “this was not a case about free speech,” a point also underscored by the judge.
Parler CEO John Matze had asserted in a court filing that Parler’s abrupt shutdown was motivated at least partly by “a desire to deny President Trump a platform on any large social-media service.” Matze said Trump had contemplated joining the network as early as October under a pseudonym. The Trump administration last week declined to comment on whether he had planned to join.
Amazon denied its move to pull the plug on Parler had anything to do with political animus. It claimed that Parler had breached its business agreement “by hosting content advocating violence and failing to timely take that content down.”
Parler was formed in May 2018, according to Nevada business records, with what co-founder Rebekah Mercer, a prominent Trump backer and conservative donor, later described as the goal of creating “a neutral platform for free speech” away from “the tyranny and hubris of our tech overlords.”
Amazon said the company signed up for its cloud computing services about a month later, thereby agreeing to its rules against dangerous content.
Matze told the court that Parler has “no tolerance for inciting violence or lawbreaking” and has relied on volunteer “jurors” to flag problem posts and vote on whether they should be removed. More recently, he said the company informed Amazon it would soon begin using artificial intelligence to automatically pre-screen posts for inappropriate content, as bigger social media companies do.
Amazon last week revealed a trove of incendiary and violent posts that it had reported to Parler over the past several weeks. They included explicit calls to harm high-profile political and business leaders and broader groups of people, such as schoolteachers and Black Lives Matter activists.
Google and Apple were the first tech giants to take action against Parler in the days after the deadly Capitol riot. Both companies temporarily banned the smartphone app from their app stores. But people who had already downloaded the Parler app were still able to use it until Amazon Web Services pulled the plug on the website.
Parler has kept its website online by maintaining its internet registration through Epik, a U.S. company owned by libertarian businessman Rob Monster. Epik has previously hosted 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Parler is currently hosted by DDoS-Guard, a company whose owners are based in Russia, public records show.
DDoS-Guard did not respond to emails seeking comment on its business with Parler or on published reports that its customers have included Russian government agencies.
Parler said Thursday it is still working to revive its platform. Although its website is back, it hasn’t restored its app or social network. Matze has said it will be difficult to restore service because the site had been so dependent on Amazon engineering, and Amazon’s action has turned off other potential vendors.
The case has offered a rare window into Amazon’s influence over the workings of the internet. Parler argued in its lawsuit that Amazon violated antitrust laws by colluding with Twitter, which also uses some Amazon cloud computing services, to quash the upstart social media app.
Rothstein, who was appointed to the Seattle-based court by Democratic President Jimmy Carter, said Parler presented “dwindlingly slight” evidence of antitrust violations and no evidence that Amazon and Twitter “acted together intentionally — or even at all — in restraint of trade.”