Chinese stocks fell the most in almost five months after the nation's biggest brokerage issued a rare sell rating on the People's Insurance Company (Group) of China, likely signalling the government's desire to slow a market that has outperformed global rivals over the past two months. It was down about 4.7 percent for the week, its biggest percentage decline since end November.
The catalysts behind the buying are the worsening global economic outlook after the European Central Bank issued another warning about Euro Zone weakness and a new report from China showed imports and exports weakened last month.
While the timing of the Lunar New Year made it hard to draw a true signal from the China data noise, the scale of the drop was alarming, especially when coupled with sombre new data from Germany and Norway.
Adding to the selling pressure was data showing Chinese exports plunged more than 20 percent last month, while imports were also sharply down both missing expectations by some margin. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan skidded 1.1 percent to a two-week trough. The bank indicated it would keep interest rates at historic lows at least until next year and potentially indefinitely and set out a new program to offer cheap loans to euro zone banks.
The mood had already been brittle after the European Central Bank slashed its growth forecasts and surprised everyone with a new round of policy stimulus, leaving investors fearing the worst for the global economy.
In China on Friday, dollar-denominated February exports fell 21 percent from a year earlier.
Investors will be scouring US payrolls data for February due out later in the day, with analysts uncertain how much payback there might be for January's outsized jump.
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Yields on German and French 10-year bonds dived to their lowest since 2016, while banking stocks took a beating. There was also a chance the jobless rate could fall by more than forecast given the recent strength in employment.
A weaker-than-expected report could send prices sharply higher as this news would likely drive the Treasury yields and stock prices lower, weakening the dollar.
The difference between the overnight and forward Eonia interest rates - bank-to-bank interest rates for the euro area that provide some indication of how investors view the ECB rate trajectory - imply a 10-basis-point rate hike is now only fully priced in for late-2020.
"Strong non-farm payrolls results and further positive developments in U.S".
The ECB's board did lower its growth projections to 1.1% for 2019, down from 1.7% projected in December 2018.
United States gold futures + 0.3 percent at $1,289.80 oz.
West Texas Intermediate crude dropped 1 percent to $56.11 a barrel.
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