Asia Markets

Asia-Pacific shares decline broadly as South Korea hikes interest rates

Key Points
  • Asia-Pacific stocks mostly declined on Thursday, as U.S. stocks again surged to record highs.
  • South Korea's central bank hiked interest rates, making it the first developed economy to do so in the pandemic era.
  • The S&P 500 and Nasdaq surged to record highs.

SINGAPORE — Asia-Pacific markets mostly declined on Thursday despite overnight gains on Wall Street, while South Korea became the first major economy to raise interest rates during the pandemic.

The Bank of Korea raised its base rate by 25 basis points to 0.75% for the first time in nearly three years.

South Korean stocks were mixed. The benchmark Kospi fell 0.58% to 3,128.53 while the Kosdaq gained 0.26% to 1,020.44. The Korean won weakened against the dollar following the rate hike, trading at around 1,168.84.

"The virus situation in Korea has deteriorated since the central bank's July meeting, when it gave strong signals that tightening was imminent," Capital Economics wrote in a note before the announcement.

"However, the economy has become increasingly resilient to outbreaks, as businesses have learned to live with the virus," it said, adding that surging household debt and rising home prices are adding to financial stability issues.

Asia-Pacific markets struggled

Markets elsewhere in the region broadly struggled.

In Australia, the ASX 200 fell 0.54% to 7,491.20 as the Covid-19 situation in the country continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Daily reported Covid cases shot up to more than 1,000 on Thursday in the state of New South Wales alone — Reuters reported it was the first time since the pandemic started that Australia's daily Covid numbers surpassed 1,000 cases. Two major hospitals in Sydney had to set up emergency outdoor tents to cope with the surge in patients, the news agency said.

Shares of Australia's flag carrier Qantas rose 3.49%, beating the broader benchmark, after CEO Alan Joyce said the airline plans to resume international travel by Christmas.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 finished near the flatline at 27,742.29 while the Topix index was little changed at 1,935.35.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled 1.32% while the tech-heavy Hang Seng Tech Index fell 2.17% as shares of Alibaba dropped 1.4%, Meituan declined about 1% and Apple supplier AAC Tech plunged 11%.

Chinese mainland share also declined. The Shanghai composite fell 1.09% to 3,501.66 while the Shenzhen component was down 1.92% to 14,415.46.

Shares in India struggled for gains in the afternoon as did stocks in Singapore and Indonesia, where the Jakarta Composite was down about 1%.

U.S. stocks climbed again overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 39.24 points, or 0.1%, to 35,405.50. The S&P 500 added 0.2% to a new closing high of 4,496.19. The Nasdaq Composite gained 0.1% to 15,041.86, also a new closing high.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, dropped to 92.890, off levels above 93 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.2, weakening from an earlier level around 109.90. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7264.

Oil prices fell during Asian trading hours. International benchmark Brent crude futures declined 1.26% to $71.34 per barrel. U.S. crude futures fell 1.39% to $67.43.