Profit-taking after recent surges in tech giants weighed on US and Asian markets
Profit-taking after recent surges in tech giants weighed on US and Asian markets AFP

Asian markets mostly fell Friday following a broadly negative lead from Wall Street, where tech giants led a sell-off on profit-taking, while traders are on intervention watch as the yen retreats back towards a three-decade low.

A batch of worse-than-forecast US data provided further signs that the world's number one economy was softening, but that was not enough to help push the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to record highs.

The readings showed more people claiming for unemployment benefit than estimated, housing starts falling and a key gauge of business confidence for June well down from May.

Minneapolis Fed boss Neel Kashkari said it could take a year or two to bring inflation back down to the central bank's two percent target, echoing his colleagues' warnings that they wanted to take their time before cutting borrowing costs.

The economic figures boosted interest rate cut hopes but were overshadowed by losses in market titans including Nvidia, Apple and Microsoft who have spearheaded the recent tech-fuelled rally in US markets.

The 3.5 percent drop in Nvidia meant it relinquished its crown as the world's most valuable publicly traded firm to Microsoft, which it had overtaken earlier this week.

Asian traders tracked the weak lead, with Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei, Mumbai and Manila all down. Singapore, Sydney, Bangkok and Jakarta edged up.

"The selloff in US tech overnight is weighing," Chamath de Silva, of BetaShares Holdings, said. "We've also had some broad (dollar) strength in recent sessions, which often weighs on Asian equities."

London, Paris and Frankfurt all opened lower, after chalking up healthy gains Thursday.

Attention is once again being given to the yen as it edges back towards the 34-year low against the dollar, which led to a suspected intervention by Japanese authorities in April.

Fading hopes that the Fed will cut interest rates more than once this year -- if at all -- have pushed the dollar up against its peers in recent weeks, with the yen taking a hit owing to the Bank of Japan's refusal to tighten monetary policy quicker.

While BoJ is expected to announce further normalisation measures at its next meeting, the big difference in yields between the two central banks means investors are sticking with US assets for now.

The yen was barely moved Friday, a day after weakening to around 159 per dollar from 157.80.

That led top currency official Masato Kanda to repeat that the government was ready to act when appropriate and movements were too quick -- he said this year that a 10-yen move in either direction was considered too much.

Authorities are suspected to have intervened when the Japanese unit fell past 160 to the dollar two months ago.

However, analysts have said interventions had little long-term impact.

And Monex's Helen Given added: "I'm more and more convinced that currency officials are giving up on the yen.

"The yield differential is just too much to overcome right now, and with the US now only eyeing one cut this year it's not going to materially improve anytime soon."

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 38,596.47 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.5 percent at 18,057.43

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.2 percent at 2,998.14 (close)

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 8,266.80

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0711 from $1.0705 on Thursday

Euro/pound: UP at 84.63 pence from 84.56 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 158.98 yen from 158.91 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2659 from $1.2657

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.2 percent at $81.16 per barrel

Brent North Sea Crude: DOWN 0.2 percent at $85.54 per barrel

New York - Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 39,134.76 (close)