March 4, 2015 – Asian markets mostly fell today following a retreat on Wall Street fuelled by profit-taking, with Tokyo hit by a stronger yen and Sydney dipping after data showed Australia’s economy grew slower than expected last year.
With few trading cues investors are keeping a watch on the start of China’s annual parliament meeting on Thursday as well as European Central Bank details on its new bond-purchase scheme.
Tokyo lost 0.59 per cent, or 111.56 points, to 18,703.60, Sydney, which ended at a seven-month high on Monday, fell 0.54 per cent, or 32.3 points, to 5,901.6 and Seoul lost 0.15 per cent, 3.09 points, to 1,998.29.
Hong Kong fell 0.96 per cent, or 237.40 points, to 24,465.38 but Shanghai rose 0.51 per cent, or 16.48 points, to 3,279.53.
“The lack of fresh sparks has prompted investors to take profits and wait for new signals,” Matthew Sherwood, Sydney-based head of investment markets research at Perpetual Ltd., told Bloomberg News.
Dealers took their lead from New York, where the three main indexes – which have been on a six-year bull run – ticked downwards after hitting key levels.
The Dow fell 0.47 per cent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.45 per cent, both a day after hitting new records. The Nasdaq slipped 0.56 per cent after breaking 5,000 points for the first time in 15 years.
Tokyo led Asia’s losers as the yen recovered slightly from recent losses against the dollar, with the greenback easing to ¥119.67 from ¥119.74 in New York Tuesday afternoon.
The euro bought US$1.1171 and ¥133.68 against US$1.1178 and ¥133.85.
In Australia, official figures showed the economy grew 0.5 per cent on-quarter in the three months to December and 2.5 per cent over the whole of 2014 – below forecasts of 0.7 per cent and 2.6 per cent respectively.
The news comes a day after the Reserve Bank of Australia held off cutting interest rates for a second-straight month, but analysts say it will likely act again soon as jobless queues become longer and consumers stop spending.
Focus will next turn to the meeting of China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress, at which Premier Li Keqiang is expected to deliver an address on the state of the economy.
Later in the day the ECB will hold its next policy meeting and outline details of the asset-purchase programme that it is launching in a bid to kickstart the eurozone economy and fight off deflation.
Oil prices were mixed ahead of the release of a key US energy inventory report later in the day. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate rose eight cents to US$50.60 while Brent crude eased 31 cents to $60.71.
Prices rose on Tuesday on news of growing unrest in exporter Libya.
Gold fetched US$1,204.12 against US$1,207.80 late last night.
In other markets:
— Singapore closed down 0.19 per cent, or 6.58 points, to 3,415.53.
United Overseas Bank finished 0.43 per cent lower at S$23.10 while DBS Bank gained 1.09 per cent to S$19.47.
— Jakarta ended down 0.49 per cent, or 26.56 points, at 5,448.06.
Palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari gained 1.37 per cent to 25,975 rupiah, while auto maker Astra International fell 1.56 per cent to 7,875 rupiah.
— Kuala Lumpur’s main stock index gained 0.24 per cent, or 4.29 points, to close at 1,825.54.
Tenaga Nasional rose 0.41 per cent to 14.72 ringgit, Sime Darby went up 0.21 per cent to 9.34 while Malayan Banking dropped 0.75 per cent to 9.28 ringgit.
— Mumbai fell 0.72 per cent, or 213.00 points, to end at 29,380.73 points. In the session, it touched a new high of 30,024.74 points.
Sesa Sterlite Limited fell 4.11 per cent to 212.40 rupees, while Sun Pharmaceuticals Industries rose 6.62 per cent to 1,004.80 rupees.
— Taipei rose 0.17 per cent, or 15.96 points, to 9.621.73.
Smartphone maker HTC added 2.32 per cent to NT$88.3 while PC giant Acer fell 0.72 per cent to NT$20.55.
— Wellington lost 0.33 per cent, or 19.58 points, to close at 5,874.08.
Air New Zealand was off 0.51 per cent at NZ$2.955 and Chorus slipped 0.70 per cent to NZ$2.84.
— Manila closed 0.92 per cent higher, adding 71.32 points to 7,847.83.
Ayala Land gained 3.95 per cent to 38.15 pesos but Philippine Long Distance Telephone fell 0.06 per cent to 3,096 pesos.
— Bangkok was closed for a public holiday.