By Joanne Chiu
International markets fell, after cautious comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell added to concerns about the global economy.
In morning trading in Hong Kong on Thursday, the Hang Seng Index led regional declines with a nearly 1.5% drop. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Japan, South Korea and Australia declined less than 1% each.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 2.2% Wednesday, after Mr. Powell said further stimulus could be needed to support the U.S. economy's recovery from its coronavirus-induced contraction.
E-mini S&P 500 futures retreated nearly half a percent in Asian trading hours, suggesting U.S. shares could come under fresh pressure on Thursday.
Dwyfor Evans, head of macro strategy for Asia Pacific at State Street Global Markets, said markets were weighed down by Mr. Powell's "extremely negative" remarks, and the Fed chairman was effectively "crying out for political assistance" in the form of greater government spending.
On Wednesday Mr. Powell warned that, with company revenues depressed for longer, waves of business bankruptcies could follow, risking a much slower pace of improvement in the job market.
Mr. Evans at State Street said renewed trade tensions were also concerning, and if they picked up could lead to U.S. investors bringing back some capital invested abroad.
The Trump administration recently told a federal retirement plan to avoid Chinese stocks, while the Global Times, a Communist Party-run newspaper, said that Beijing was exploring punitive countermeasures to U.S. lawsuits seeking damages from China for the pandemic.
The Chinese government's annual legislative meetings, set to start on May 22, could give markets in Asia a lift, said Mr. Evans.
He said Beijing could offset weak exports by cutting taxes and levies to encourage domestic consumption, helping boost China's economic recovery from the coronavirus. "China should be leading the global economy out of this. We think of it very much as first into the crisis, first out of the crisis," he said.
Write to Joanne Chiu at email@example.com