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Asian Markets Mostly Lower

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Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Thursday following the modest losses overnight on Wall Street after a mixed batch of earnings news from big-name companies. Investors preferred to stay on the sidelines ahead of the Good Friday and Easter holidays.

The Australian market has pared initial gains and is now edging lower, despite the release of upbeat Australian jobs data for March. Investors are also digesting quarterly production results from major mining as well as oil companies.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is down 0.60 points or 0.01 percent to 6,255.80, after touching a high of 6,280.40 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is edging lower by 3.90 points or 0.06 percent to 6,346.40.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac and National Australia Bank are up in a range of 0.2 percent to 0.7 percent.

Oil stocks are also higher even as crude oil prices declined overnight. Oil Search is up 0.7 percent and Santos is rising almost 2 percent.

Woodside Petroleum reported a 4 percent increase in its first-quarter revenue from last year, while total production for the quarter edged lower. The company's shares are adding almost 1 percent.

Among the major miners, Rio Tinto is advancing more than 1 percent, Fortescue Metals is higher by almost 1 percent and BHP Group is adding 0.3 percent.

Fortescue Metals reported third-quarter iron ore shipments that were flat with last year and also lowered its full-year shipments outlook due to disruptions caused by Tropical Cyclone Veronica.

South32 said its third-quarter production of coking coal or metallurgical coal fell 37 percent from the preceding second quarter, but added that it is on track to meet its 2019 production outlook. The miner's shares are up 0.2 percent.

Gold miners are mixed after gold prices edged lower overnight. Newcrest Mining is adding almost 1 percent, while Evolution Mining is lower by 3 percent.

GrainCorp said its grains business had experienced a deterioration of about A$40 million in expected EBITDA for the half-year period up to March 31, 2019, due to a challenging period in international markets and the ongoing drought conditions in eastern Australia. The grain handler's shares are lower by more than 1 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S dollar on Thursday. The local currency was quoted at $0.7169, down from $0.7197 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is declining after five straight days of gains, following the modest losses on Wall Street and on a stronger yen. Investors are also cautious ahead of the Good Friday and Easter holidays in international markets.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 81.55 points or 0.37 percent to 22,196.42, after touching a high of 22,305.63 in early trades. Japanese shares rose for a fifth straight session on Wednesday.

The major exporters are lower on a stronger yen. Canon is declining almost 3 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is lower by more than 1 percent, Sony is losing 0.6 percent, and Panasonic is down 0.2 percent.

The Nikkei Asian Review reported that Canon is expected to lower its earnings outlook for fiscal 2019, with operating profit for the year likely to decline about 20 percent from the current forecast.

In the tech sector, Advantest is down 0.6 percent, while Tokyo Electron is advancing more than 1 percent. Among the major automakers, Honda is rising more than 1 percent and Toyota is advancing almost 1 percent.

In the banking space, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is up 0.4 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is higher by more than 1 percent each. In the oil sector, Inpex is up more than 1 percent, while Japan Petroleum is lower by 0.3 percent after crude oil prices declined overnight.

Among the other major gainers, Rakuten is rising more than 3 percent after the e-commerce giant said that account registrations for trading cryptocurrencies on the company's Rakuten Wallet are now open. Suzuki Motor is higher by 3 percent and Denso Corp. is up almost 3 percent.

On the flip side, Chiyoda Corp. is losing 6 percent, while Terumo Corp. and JGC Corp. are lower by 4 percent each.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 111 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, South Korea, New Zealand, Malaysia and Hong Kong are also lower. Indonesia is advancing almost 1 percent, while Singapore and Taiwan are edging higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed slightly lower on Wednesday in choppy trading as traders digested a mixed batch of earnings news from big-name companies such as PepsiCo, Morgan Stanley, Netflix and IBM Corp. The lackluster performance continued as the Federal Reserve's Beige Book said U.S. economic activity expanded at a slight-to-moderate pace in March and early April.

The Dow edged down 3.12 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 26,449.54, the Nasdaq slipped 4.15 points or 0.1 percent to 7,996.08 and the S&P 500 dipped 6.61 points or 0.2 percent to 2,900.45.

The major European markets all moved to the upside on Wednesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closed just above the unchanged line, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index climbed by 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures ended lower on Wednesday, but the decline was just marginal as data from Energy Information Administration or EIA showed a drop in U.S. crude stockpiles. WTI crude for May declined $0.29 or 0.45 percent to close at $63.76 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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