TOKYO – Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower on Thursday after Fitch Ratings cut the United States government's credit rating.
Tokyo's market benchmark fell almost 1.5%. Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul declined. Oil prices edged higher.
Wall Street turned in its biggest one-day decline in months after Fitch Ratings cut the U.S. government credit rating Wednesday by one level. The agency cited rising debt and a “steady deterioration in standards of governance” after Congress pushed Washington close to defaulting before agreeing to raise the amount it can borrow.
“This is largely irrelevant despite some initial shock,” said Kristina Hooper of Invesco in a report, noting that this makes the U.S. rating more consistent with other major economies. “The timing was odd, given that it occurred well after the debt ceiling issue was resolved.”
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo tumbled 1.4% to 32,244.08 and the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2% to 3,254.37. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated 0.5% to 19,429.17.
The Kospi in Seoul gave up 0.8% to 2,597.36 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 declined 0.5% to 7,318.20. Jakarta gained while New Zealand and other Southeast Asian markets declined.
The S&P 500 sank 1.4% to 4,513.39 after Fitch cut its rating on U.S. government debt by one level from its highest AAA to AA+. It was the second-straight loss for the market benchmark after last week's 16-month high.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1% to to 35,282.52. The Nasdaq composite fell 2.2% to 13,973.45.
The Fitch downgrade strikes at the core of the global financial system because U.S. Treasurys are considered some of the safest possible investments. The agency cited factors including repeated standoffs in Congress about whether to cause the government to default.
Standard & Poor’s stripped the U.S. of its AAA rating in 2011 after a fight over the government’s borrowing limit. The Government Accountability Office later estimated that budget standoff raised borrowing costs by $1.3 billion that year.
Investors are watching whether the U.S. economy can avoid a recession that was widely expected following repeated interest rate hikes to cool inflation.
Traders have been more optimistic lately, helping to push up the S&P 500 by 19.5% for the first seven months of this year.
A report Wednesday by payroll processor ADP suggested hiring in the private sector is stronger than expected, even if it slowed slowed in July from the previous month. Strong hiring could help to dampen fears of a recession but also might persuade the Federal Reserve there is too much upward pressure on prices.
The U.S. government is due to issue a more comprehensive report Friday on the jobs market. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has pointed to Friday's numbers as a big influence on the central bank's next move in September.
On Wall Street, Microsoft, Nvidia and Amazon each fell more than 2.5%.
Generac Holdings, which sells generators and other power products, tumbled 24.4% for the biggest drop in the S&P 500 after it reported weaker profit than analysts expected. SolarEdge Technologies dropped 18.4% after reporting weaker profit and revenue growth than forecast. It said higher interest rates are pressuring U.S. residential customers.
Other companies have been beating profit expectations.
CVS Health rose 3.3% after it reported a milder drop in results than expected. Humana climbed 5.6% after it topped expectations.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude edged up 7 cents to $79.56 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.88 the previous day to $79.49. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, gained 8 cents to $83.28 per barrel in London. It lost $1.71 the previous session to $83.20.
The dollar held steady at 143.28 yen. The euro declined to $1.0934 from $1.0943.