Share markets in Asia plunged to a 19-month low on Thursday after Wall Street’s worst losses in eight months. REUTERS/Issei Kato

SYDNEY - Share markets in Asia plunged to a 19-month low on Thursday after Wall Street’s worst losses in eight months led to broader risk aversion, a rise in market volatility gauges and concerns over overvalued stock markets in an environment of rapidly rising dollar yields.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was off 3.8 percent around 05:00 local time, and earlier touched its lowest level since March 2017.

Markets in Europe are seen as unlikely to stem the bleeding, with financial spreadbetters expecting London’s FTSE to open 1.4 percent lower at 7,047, Frankfurt’s DAX to open down 1.8 percent at 11 501 and Paris’ CAC to open down 2.1 percent at 5 096  

The sell-off, which came as the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said stock market valuations have been “extremely high”, erased hundreds of billions of dollars of wealth around the region.

“Equity markets are locked in a sharp sell-off, with concern around how far yields will rise, warnings from the IMF about financial stability risks and continued trade tension all driving uncertainty,” summed up analysts at ANZ.

Japan’s Nikkei ended down 3.9 percent its steepest daily drop since March, while the broader TOPIX lost around $207 billion in market value, falling 3.5 percent.

Shanghai shares dropped 4.9 percent, on track for their worst day since February 2016, to their lowest level since late 2014, while China blue chips slid 4.4 percent.

Shares in Taiwan were among the region’s worst-hit, with the broader index losing 6.3 percent. Seoul’s Kospi index was down 3.8 percent.

“We can’t see where the bottom point will be,” said Chien Bor-yi, an analyst at Taipei-based Cathay Futures Consultant.

“Further short-term equity pain may well be unavoidable in South Korea as foreigners are selling, but bond market is holding up,” said Peter Park, head of securities management at South Korea’s IBK Insurance.

Sinking global shares have raised the stakes for US inflation figures due later on Thursday as a high outcome would only stoke speculation of more aggressive rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

“We’re all just watching the Fed. We’re all watching the US economy, we’re worrying about an inflation spike or a wages spike that will come through,” said Rob Carnell, chief economist and head of research at ING in Singapore.

REUTERS