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Stock Sell-Off Slows in Asia After Rout on Wall Street

Shares fell moderately in Asia on Thursday after another torrent of selling on Wall Street sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeting more than 600 points, erasing its gains for the year. 

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index sank sharply on the open but leveled off, regaining some lost ground. By midmorning it was down 2.9 percent at 21,443.72. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 1.6 percent to 2,561.36 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index skidded 1.8 percent to 24,785.68. 

Charts for the entire region were awash with the red that indicates losses, but the declines were mostly in the 2 percent to 3 percent range. 

“Coming online with the overtly risk-off backdrop from U.S. markets, investors in the Asian region would be taking the cue to head for the doors,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. 

In Hong Kong, airline Cathay Pacific’s shares dropped 6.5 percent after it said it had discovered a data breach affecting 9.4 million passengers. 

Nasdaq bears brunt

In New York trading overnight, the Nasdaq composite with its hefty roster of tech stocks bore the brunt of the sell-off, falling more than 10 percent below its August peak, what Wall Street calls a “correction.” It slid 4.4 percent to 7,108.40, its biggest drop since August 2011 but is still up 3 percent for the year. 

The S&P 500 lost 3.1 percent to 2,656.10 and has lost about 9.4 percent from its Sept. 20 peak. The Dow tumbled 2.4 percent to 24,583.42. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 3.8 percent to 1,468.70 and is down 4.4 percent for the year.

Disappointing quarterly results and outlooks are stoking investors’ jitters over future growth in corporate profits. Bond prices rose, sending yields lower as traders sought safe-haven investments.

“Investors are on pins and needles,” said Erik Davidson, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Private Bank. “There has definitely been a change in sentiment for investors starting with the volatility we had last week. The sentiment and the outlook seems to be turning more negative, or at the very least, less rosy.”

Effect of tax cuts fading

Investors have grown concerned in recent weeks that Corporate America’s tax cut-fueled earnings growth this year will fade in coming months amid rising inflation, uncertainty over the escalating trade conflict between the U.S. and China and the likelihood of higher interest rates. Recent signs that the housing market is slowing are fueling speculation that U.S. economic growth will start to slow next year. 

Bond prices rose, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note down to 3.12 percent from 3.16 percent late Tuesday. The slide in bond yields came as traders sought out lower-risk assets.

Technology stocks and media and communications companies accounted for much of the selling. Banks, health care and industrial companies also took heavy losses, outweighing gains by utilities and other high-dividend stocks. 

Most companies that missed earnings expectations or issued cautionary outlooks were punished.

About 24 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 had reported third-quarter results as of Wednesday. Of those, 57 percent delivered earnings and revenue results that topped Wall Street’s forecasts.

Boeing was one of the few gainers Wednesday. It rose 1.3 percent to $354.65 after the defense contractor’s latest quarterly results topped analysts’ forecasts. The company also raised its estimates for the year, citing faster orders for aircraft.

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