* Pressure remains on bitcoin, cryptos after crash
* MSCI AxJ index wobbles lower; dollar holds gains
* Commods drop as China vows crackdown on speculation
SINGAPORE/TOKYO, May 20 (Reuters) - Stock markets struggled
for traction on Thursday after a jittery session on Wall Street
where cryptocurrencies crashed and a hint of tapering talk from
the U.S. Federal Reserve drove selling in the bond market while
lifting the safe-haven dollar.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
was down 0.04%. Stocks in South Korea
fell 0.34%, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.72%, but
Japan's Nikkei rose 0.43%.
Euro Stoxx 50 futures were up 0.64%, German DAX
futures also rose 0.64%, and FTSE futures were
up 0.88%, pointing to a positive start to the European session.
Bitcoin, which plunged as much as 30% to $30,000
overnight, was struggling for support around $39,000. U.S. stock
futures were flat.
Commodities also fell, Treasuries nursed losses while the
dollar held overnight gains.
Fed minutes published on Wednesday said "a number" of
officials thought that if the recovery holds up, it might be
appropriate to "begin discussing a plan for adjusting the pace
of asset purchases".
"This is very much the market view, really," ING economist
Rob Carnell said on the phone from Singapore, with traders
expecting strong hints over summer that the taper is coming and
that policy support could start to ease in December.
"This is taking us to where we think we're going to go, and
perhaps this removes a little bit of uncertainty around that -
so you get a slight increase in bond yields and the dollar
rallying a little bit."
The yield on benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasuries
rose 4.1 basis points overnight to 1.6830% and dipped to
1.6693%. The dollar scraped itself off a four-month low to hover
around $1.2181 per euro.
The dollar also rose through its 20-day moving average
against the yen, Aussie and kiwi. It last bought 109.14 yen
and the dollar index was last at 90.132.
On Wall Street overnight the S&P 500 closed 0.3%
lower and the Nasdaq was flat, something of a recovery
after each dropped more than 1.6% during the session.
The trigger for sharp falls in bitcoin, ether and other
cryptocurrencies appeared to be China's move on Tuesday to
reinforce strict curbs on crypto trading by barring financial
institutions from providing transaction services.
Traders said the huge run-up in prices for the asset class
in recent months meant that gravity also probably played a role,
as well as Tesla boss Elon Musk's apparent cooling on bitcoin
over the amount of energy consumed in processing transactions.
Outages at several major trading platforms during the
maelstrom, which also set ether tumbling nearly 50%, also
did little to inspire confidence. Although well above overnight
lows, ether and bitcoin remained under pressure on Thursday.
"It's not just crypto although that is the poster child of
this movement but SPACs, recent IPOs, ARK Innovation and
Tesla, to name a few, have all lost their bid," said Chris
Weston, head of research at brokerage Pepperstone in Melbourne.
"For me, the overriding factor is liquidity and the timing
of lower liquidity and that is having huge ramifications - we
are debating, not just a slower pace of central bank asset
purchases (QE), but when QE comes to an end."
Elsewhere industrial commodities fell sharply on Thursday
after China said it would strengthen its management of supply
and demand to curb unreasonable rises.
Dalian iron ore futures shed as much as 9%, and
coal futures fell 8%, triggering a downside limit.
Crude oil came off overnight lows but remained under
pressure on worries about fresh COVID-19 curbs in Asia crimping
demand and about the U.S. rates outlook.
Brent crude was last steady at $66.84 a barrel and
U.S. crude at $63.73.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook in Singapore; Editing by Lincoln