BEIJING – Asian stock markets sank on Friday after some European countries tightened restrictions on travel and business following an increase in coronavirus infections and South Africa reported a new variant.
Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney fell. US markets were closed Thursday for a public holiday.
Austria imposed a 10-day nationwide lockdown after its daily virus deaths tripled, while Italy imposed activity restrictions on unvaccinated people. The US government has advised Americans to avoid Germany and Denmark. South African scientists said a new variant is spreading among young people in its most populous province.
“Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” Oanda’s Jeffrey Halley said in a report.
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5% to 3,566.18 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo dipped an unusually wide 2.6% margin to 28,746.20. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 2.1% to 24,213.55.
The Kospi in Seoul lost 1.3% to 2,941.81 and the S & P-ASX 200 in Sydney fell 1.7% to 7,282.50.
India’s Sensex index opened lower 1.8% to 57,752.68. The New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also declined.
Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 closed 0.2% higher on Wednesday. US markets are expected to reopen on Friday for a shortened trading session.
Investors were already more cautious after Federal Reserve officials said in their October meeting notes released this week that they anticipated the possibility of responding to higher inflation by raising rates earlier than expected.
Financial markets had been encouraged by strong US corporate earnings and signs that the global economy was rebounding from the historic decline in activity last year due to the pandemic. Stock prices were boosted by easy credit and other measures put in place by the Fed and other central banks.
Investors fear central bankers will come under pressure to withdraw stimulus earlier than expected due to higher than expected inflation. The Fed said earlier that it plans to keep rates low until the end of next year.
In energy markets, benchmark US crude fell from $ 2.22 to $ 76.17 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the basis of international oil prices, fell $ 1.84 to $ 79.08 a barrel in London.
The dollar fell to 114.74 yen from 115.36 yen on Thursday. The euro held steady at $ 1.1221.