Hong Kong (CNN Business)Stocks in Asia Pacific were unsteady Thursday after a major sell-off on Wall Street, as investors continued to grapple with Omicron headlines and concerns that the US Federal Reserve may need to take a more hawkish stance in the coming months.
Some markets in the region fell sharply, with Japan’s benchmark Nikkei (N225) and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 plunging as much as 2.9% and 2.7%, respectively. South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) slid 1.1%.
Meanwhile, investors in Greater China appeared calmer: As of 2:38 p.m. local time, the Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) were flat.
Hong Kong tech stocks slipped, however, with the Hang Seng Tech Index down 0.6%. Gaming company Bilibili and short video platform Kuaishou shed about 6% and 4%, respectively.
Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst of Asia Pacific at Oanda, noted that similar action on Wall Street was taking place, and wouldn’t “help” sentiment in China, “especially in Hong Kong.”
US investors sent stocks lower on Wednesday, as they dealt with the Federal Reserve’s December meeting minutes, which confirmed that the central bank had its foot on stimulus brakes.
Tech stocks were hit particularly hard during Wednesday’s session, with the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) dropping 3.3%, its worst performance since February 2021.
The Dow (INDU), which had just hit a record high on Tuesday, closed down 1.1%, or 393 points.
The S&P 500 (SPX), the broadest index tracking US equities, finished 1.9% lower, marking its worst day since late November.
US stock futures were muted overnight, with Dow futures and S&P 500 futures each pointing down less than 0.5% on Thursday morning. Nasdaq futures were down 0.6%.
Halley referred to the US sell-off as a “meltdown,” noting that Asia appeared to be following “Wall Street south” on Thursday.
“Asian markets initially held their nerve this morning,” Halley wrote in a note to clients.
But that changed swiftly throughout the day, ultimately, “leaving the region [in a] sea of red,” he added.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has led to a rapid increase in infections and fresh restrictions across the world, including a major lockdown in China and a weekend curfew in the Indian capital of New Delhi. India’s benchmark S&P BSE Sensex (SENSEX) Index dipped 1.3% Thursday, too.
Investors have fretted for weeks over what the highly contagious strain would mean for global business and markets, while also bracing for the prospect of interest rate hikes in the coming months.
Last month, the Federal Reserve said it would wrap up its stimulus program faster than originally announced, and updated its economic projections to show multiple rate increases this year.
— Anneken Tappe contributed to this report.
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