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Image Credit: Reuters

Beijing/Hong Kong: Asian stocks tracked a steep Wall Street selloff on Thursday, as investors fretted over rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy and the Ukraine war, while the safe-haven dollar held most of its strong overnight gains.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 2 per cent in early Asian trading hours, the first daily decline in a week. Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 2.4 per cent.

Pulling it lower was a 1.5 per cent loss for Australia’s resource-heavy index, a 2.6 per cent drop in Hong Kong stocks and a 1 per cent retreat for blue chips in mainland China .

Overnight on Wall Street, earnings reports from retail giants soured sentiment, with Target Corp warning of a bigger margin hit due to rising fuel and freight costs as it reported its quarterly profit had halved. One day earlier, Walmart Inc warned of similar margin squeezes.

Target’s shares plunged 24.88 per cent, the biggest one-day percentage drop since the “Black Monday” stock market crash on Oct. 19, 1987. On Wednesday, the Nasdaq fall almost 5 per cent while the S&P 500 lost 4 per cent.

“The bounce on Tuesday was proven to have been ‘too optimistic’, thus the self-doubt stemming from the misjudgement only makes traders to click the sell button even harder,” said Hebe Chen, market analyst at IG.

“It must be said that the concern for inflation has never gone away since we stepped into 2022, however, while things haven’t reached the point of no return, they are seemingly heading in the direction of ‘out of control’. That, is probably the most worrying part for the market.

The US dollar, which had rallied on falling risk appetite, paused its gains on Thursday, with the greenback easing 0.05 per cent against a basket of major currencies. The Japanese yen , on the other hand, fell 0.2 per cent against the dollar.

British inflation surged to its highest annual rate since 1982 as energy bills soared, while Canadian inflation rose to 6.8 per cent last month, largely driven by rising food and shelter prices.

Bilal Hafeez, CEO of London-based research firm MacroHive, said there was a strong bias toward safe-haven assets right now, particularly cash.

“There may be short-term bounces in equities like the last few days, but the big picture is that the era of low yields are over, and we are transitioning to a higher rates environment,” Hafeez told the Reuters Global Markets Forum. “This will pressure all the markets that benefited from low yields - especially equities.” US Treasuries rallied overnight and were steady in Asia, leaving the yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes at 2.8931 per cent.

The two-year yield, which rises with traders’ expectations of higher Fed fund rates, touched 2.6715 per cent compared with a US close of 2.667 per cent.

Oil futures were mixed on Thursday morning. US crude dipped 0.2 per cent to $109.38 a barrel. Brent crude rose 0.26 per cent to $109.4 per barrel.

Gold was slightly lower with the spot price at $1,814.8899 per ounce.