Asian shares fell for a third straight day on Wednesday as weak manufacturing reports from China, the United States and Europe fueled worries about slowing global growth, while the dollar took back some ground lost in the previous session to the safe-haven Japanese yen. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.4 percent, though off session lows, taking its losses to 3 percent so far this week as investors dumped emerging market assets. Japan's Nikkei was down 0.5 percent.
U.S. factory activity braked to a more than two-year low in August, but sturdy gains in automobile sales and construction spending suggested the economy remained on solid footing. The sharp slowdown in manufacturing, which has been hurt by a strong dollar and deep spending cuts in the energy sector, was probably an early indication of fallout from the recent turmoil in stock markets, economists said. "It suggests that the recent eruption in uncertainty toward Chinese and global growth is beginning to affect U.S. business decisions," said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.
Oil prices fell around 2 percent in Asian trade on Wednesday, as a stronger-than-expected build in U.S. crude oil stocks and weaker U.S. manufacturing data fueled a rout in prices that started in the previous session. Brent and U.S. crude finished around 8 percent lower on Tuesday to end a 25 percent three-session surge, the largest three-day gain since 1990. This roller-coaster volatility could continue especially if there are similar wild swings in the equity markets, said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at Sydney's CMC Markets.
Recent volatility in global financial markets shows how rapidly risks can spill over from one economy to the next, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in Jakarta on Wednesday. "What has been demonstrated in the last few weeks is how much Asia is at the core of the global economy, and how much disruption in one market in Asia can actually spill over to the rest of the world," Christine Lagarde told a conference in Indonesia's capital. World stock markets and the currencies of many emerging markets have seen large swings since China's decision last month to devalue its currency.