Asian stocks decline after global markets fall on Italian turmoil

  • Asian markets closed lower on Wednesday, tracking the overnight sell-off in global markets.
  • Political turmoil in Italy weighed on investor sentiment.
  • Investors also watched developments in U.S.-China trade negotiations.

Asian markets closed lower on Wednesday as a sell-off in U.S. and European markets weighed on sentiment during the Asian trading session. The political crisis in Italy took center stage, with investors concerned over its implications for the rest of the euro zone.

The Nikkei 225 fell 1.52 percent, or 339.91 points, to 22,018.52 in Tokyo, with the banking and non-ferrous metals sectors among the worst-performing sectors. The broader Topix was down 1.46 percent as 32 of its 33 subindexes finished lower.

The Kospi slid 1.96 percent to close at 2,409.03, as heavyweights like Samsung Electronics and Posco sank 3.51 percent and 2.01 percent, respectively.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Greater China markets were also spooked. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 1.55 percent by 3:20 p.m. HK/SIN, with the property sector falling 1.9 percent. Heavily weighted financials also came under pressure. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite lost 2.53 percent to close at 3,041.65.

Over in Sydney, however, stocks registered more measured declines. The S&P/ASX 200 edged down by 0.48 percent to close at 5,984.70, its lowest level since April 30. The financials subindex led the move lower, but gains were seen in gold producers and utilities names.

MSCI's broad index of shares in Asia Pacific excluding Japan pulled back, dropping 1.33 percent in Asia afternoon trade.

Italian politics sway markets

Losses in Asia came on the back of political turmoil in Italy, which is expected to lead to a fresh vote in the months ahead. The country has been without a government since early March, with anti-establishment political groups abandoning efforts to form a coalition over the weekend amid a dispute with the country's head of state.

U.S. stocks sold off, with the Dow Jones industrial average sliding 1.58 percent, or 391.64 points. The losses seen on Tuesday marked the worst daily performance for both the Dow and S&P 500 since April 24. Both stock indexes were also down for the third consecutive session.

European markets were also weakerin the last session, with Italy's FTSE MIB tumbling 2.65 percent.

"The League/Five Star is already turning the election into an anti-establishment/anti euro one and that's what the market has in its sights," David de Garis, director of economics at National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.

For Asia, however, jitters as a result of political concerns could prove to fade in the medium term. "We are living right now a very complicated situation in Italy. For those who are living in Asia, all they need to do is simply close their eyes, move forward six months and this whole storm will disappear," Marco Elser, head portfolio manager at Lonsin Capital, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

The euro traded at $1.1564 at 2:48 p.m. HK/SIN, which was below the $1.16 level seen in the previous session, but slightly above Tuesday's close. The dollar index, which tracks the dollar against several major currencies, was little changed at 94.664.

The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield came in at 2.835 percent after slipping below 2.8 percent overnight as investors turned to safe-haven assets. Bond prices move inversely to yields.

Other safe-haven plays also firmed overnight, with the Japanese yen on Wednesday holding onto overnight gains to trade at 108.68 to the dollar.

After what seemed like a cooling in tensions between the U.S. and China over bilateral trade issues, the White House on Tuesday said it was moving ahead with plans to subject around $50 billion in Chinese imports to tariffs.

On the commodities front, U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures slipped 0.12 percent to trade at $66.65 per barrel after settling 1.7 percent lower on Tuesday. Brent crude futures were off by 0.15 percent at $75.28. Oil prices have come under pressure following news last week that Saudi Arabia and Russia had discussed raising output.

Also of note, Indonesia's central bank will meet on Wednesday after seeing little success with recent attempts to prop up the Indonesian rupiah. Most analysts polled by Reuters expect Bank Indonesia to raise its main rate by 25 basis points.

Among individual movers, shares of Nintendo rose 4.34 percent after the consumer electronics company announced three new Pokemon titles for its Switch console.

— CNBC's Sam Meredith contributed to this report.