SYDNEY- Asian shares hit a two-week low on Wednesday, oil weakened further and the dollar neared four-month highs as coronavirus lockdowns in Europe and potential US tax hikes hit risk appetite, leading to a flight to safety.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan was off 1 percent after falling 0.9 percent on Tuesday. It went as low as 676.46 points, a level last seen on March 9.
The index has had a disappointing run in March after five straight months of gains, as risk assets were earlier spooked by fears inflation will pick up at a faster-than-expected pace led by successful coronavirus vaccine rollouts and massive US fiscal stimulus.
Japan’s Nikkei stumbled 1.8 percent while South Korea’s KOSPI slipped 0.5 percent.
Chinese shares were in the red for a second day with the blue-chip CSI300 index down 1.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng skidded 1.7 percent.
On Wall Street overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.94 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.76 percent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.12 percent.
“The combination of increasing lockdowns in much of Europe, and some risk reduction in the EM space, led to a risk-off day where Treasuries rallied on the back of a flight-to-quality bid,” John Briggs, global head of strategy for NatWest wrote in a note to clients.
Germany extended its lockdown to April 18. A US health agency said the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine developed with Oxford University may have included outdated information in its data, further fueling investor concerns over the recovery.