By Ambar Warrick
Investing.com-- Most Asian stock markets fell sharply on Thursday amid growing signs of weakness in China’s manufacturing sector, while concerns over a hawkish Federal Reserve grew ahead of key nonfarm payrolls data this week.
Bourses in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Australia tumbled between 1.7% and 2.2%. China’s blue-chip Shanghai Shenzhen CSI 300 index traded flat after a private survey showed the country’s manufacturing sector contracted in August.
The reading follows a similar print from official data on Wednesday, and comes as a brewing power shortage exacerbated a manufacturing slowdown caused by COVID-19 lockdowns.
A resurgence in COVID-19 cases has spurred new curbs in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which are expected to keep growth subdued.
Earlier this week, investment bank UBS turned neutral on Chinese equities, citing headwinds from the zero-COVID policy and a debt-ridden property market.
“Until there is a significant easing of the restrictive COVID policies, which seem unlikely in the near term, we expect recovery to be tepid… Until there is a significant easing of the restrictive COVID policies, which seem unlikely in the near term, we expect recovery to be tepid,” UBS analysts wrote in a note.
Broader Asian stocks slumped as investors dumped risk-driven assets ahead of key U.S. nonfarm payrolls data on Friday. Signs of strength in the job market open the door to more hawkish measures from the Fed, which is negative for equity markets.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slumped 1.7%, while the tech-heavy Taiwan and Hong Kong bourses lost 2% and 1.6%, respectively. Losses in Asia mirrored those on Wall Street, with technology shares dragging U.S. bourses lower for a fourth straight session.
South Korea’s KOSPI fell 1.9% after data showed the country logged a record trade deficit in August.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped nearly 2% on a swathe of weak data. Industrial activity grew at a slower-than-expected pace in August, while housing loans for the month sank much more than expected, pointing to more pressure on the country’s beleaguered property sector.
Australian shares of BHP Group Ltd (ASX: BHP ), the world's largest miner, were the biggest weight on the ASX 200, falling nearly 7% as the stock traded ex-dividend.
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