HONG KONG — Markets across Asia shuddered on Thursday after a drop in stocks in the United States over concern about rising interest rates and increased tensions between Beijing and Washington.
No market in Asia was spared a sweeping sell-off as stocks in Shanghai, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong dropped by 4 percent or more in a punishing morning session of trading. Futures markets that track the expected performance of stocks in Europe and the United States suggested the sell-off could continue.
The global stock rout started in New York on Wednesday, when the Standard & Poor’s 500 index tumbled 3.3 percent, its biggest drop in eight months. It was the fifth day of selling, signaling a change in mood on Wall Street, which had been ebullient amid strong corporate profits.
But concerns have started to weigh. With signs of rising inflation, the Federal Reserve is expected to ratchet up interest rates further, which could raise the cost of borrowing in the United States and around the world.
The market damage was particularly acute in China, where signs of economic softness and worries about the impact of President Trump’s trade war have pushed down stocks for months. Over the weekend, the People’s Bank of China unleashed $175 billion into the economy to help shore it up. Worried about the impact of negative information on its citizens, China has censored negative economic news.
The tensions with Washington appear to be only getting worse. On Wednesday, United States officials said they had charged a Chinese intelligence official with espionage after he was extradited from Belgium. Washington officials also said on Wednesday they would more aggressively scrutinize corporate deals by foreign investors in the United States, in a move aimed primarily at China.
Chinese tech stocks took the biggest losses. The country’s biggest and best-known companies, including the internet giant Tencent, the telecommunications firm ZTE and Meituan Dianping, the internet service platform, were trading down more than 7 percent.
In Shanghai, where the market was already in bear-market territory, stocks were down 4.3 percent and hovering around their lowest level since November 2014. Some market observers questioned whether the government could step in to stem losses, as it did in 2015 when a summer stock market rout set off a global sell-off.
At the time it banned short selling, suspended initial public offerings and prohibited investors who owned more than 5 percent of a stock from selling it. Officials also deployed a “national team” of state-owned financial institutions to buy up stocks and help bolster the market as it tumbled more than 25 percent.
In other Asian capitals, there seemed no end to selling. In Tokyo, stocks crept down 4 percent, while investors in Seoul pushed the market down 3.6 percent. In Hong Kong, where many Chinese companies are listed, the market was down 3.8 percent. The worst hit was Taiwan, where the market plunged 6.2 percent in morning trading.