Asian Markets Drift Lower

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(RTTNews.com) - Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Monday, with some of the markets paring early gains despite the positive cues from Wall Street Friday on optimism about Republican lawmakers passing tax reform legislation in the U.S. The legislation will reduce corporate as well as individual tax rates and is intended to boost growth in the world's largest economy.

The Australian market is advancing following the fresh record highs on Wall Street Friday amid optimism about U.S. tax reform legislation as well as on higher commodity prices.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is adding 38.50 points or 0.64 percent to 6,035.50, off a high of 6,040.90. The broader All Ordinaries Index is up 38.50 points or 0.63 percent to 6,125.60.

Rio Tinto said it will increase the number of unmanned autonomous haul trucks used in the Pilbara by more than 50 per cent as part of a A$5 billion productivity drive.

BHP Billiton and Esso Australia Resources said they have ended their joint venture and will now separately market their respective share of gas produced under the JV following an investigation by the ACCC.

Gold miners are also higher. Newcrest Mining is rising 0.5 percent and Evolution Mining is adding 1 percent after gold prices edged higher on Friday.

In the banking space, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are advancing in a range of 0.4 percent to 0.8 percent.

ANZ Banking has announced a buyback of A$1.5 billion of its shares on-market following the sale of its 20 percent stake in Shanghai Rural Commercial bank for A$1.8 billion. The bank's shares are rising almost 2 percent.

Oil stocks are weak despite the increase in crude oil prices Friday. Oil Search is losing 1 percent, Santos is down almost 1 percent and Woodside Petroleum is lower by 0.6 percent.

U.S. technology giant Oracle has agreed to buy Australian construction software provider Aconex in a A$1.6 billion deal that is expected to be completed in the first half of 2018. Shares of Aconex are surging more than 44 percent.

India'sAdani Group said it has cancelled all contracts awarded to Downer EDI for the controversial Carmichael Coal mine project and will develop the mine on its own. Shares of Downer EDI are declining almost 1 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will see December results for the consumer confidence index from ANZ and November numbers for new motor vehicle sales.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar lost ground against the U.S. dollar, which strengthened on optimism about U.S. tax reforms. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7648, down from US$0.7672 on Friday.

The Japanese market is rising for the first time in five days, buoyed by a weaker yen and the gains on Wall Street Friday on optimism about U.S. tax reform.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is gaining 247.27 points or 1.10 percent to 22,800.49, off a high of 22,833.78 earlier.

The major exporters are higher on a weaker yen. Sony is advancing 2 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is adding more than 1 percent, Canon is up 0.4 percent and Panasonic is higher by 0.2 percent.

In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is gaining 3 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is rising more than 2 percent.

Among automakers, Toyota is up more than 2 percent and Honda is adding 1 percent. In the oil space, Inpex is up 0.5 percent, while Japan Petroleum is declining almost 1 percent.

Among the market's best performers, Resona Holdings, Fukuoka Financial and Mitsui Mining & Smelting are all rising more than 3 percent each.

On the flip side, Kajima Corp. is losing almost 4 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported that the offices of Kajima and Shimizu were raided by Japanese prosecutors for alleged antitrust violations in a bid-rigging probe over a high-speed railway project.

Shimizu's shares are lower by more than 2 percent. Shares of Tokyo Dome Corp. and Taisei Corp are down almost 4 percent each.

In economic news, the Ministry of Finance said that Japan had a merchandise trade surplus of 113.357 billion yen in November. That beat forecasts for a deficit of 40.0 billion yen following the 285.4 billion yen surplus in October.

Exports were up 16.2 percent on year, topping expectations for a gain of 14.7 percent following the 14.0 percent gain in the previous month. Imports climbed an annual 17.2 percent versus forecasts for an increase of 18.0 percent and down from 18.9 percent a month earlier.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 112 yen-range on Monday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai and Taiwan are edging higher, while South Korea, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia are all lower.

On Wall Street, stocks closed at new record closing highs on Friday as traders expressed optimism about Republican lawmakers passing tax reform legislation.

The Dow rose 143.08 points or 0.6 percent to 24,651.74, the Nasdaq spiked 80.06 points or 1.2 percent to 6,936.58 and the S&P 500 climbed 23.80 points or 0.9 percent to 2,675.81.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Friday. While the French CAC 40 Index edged down by 0.2 percent, the German DAX Index rose by 0.3 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index climbed by 0.6 percent.

Crude oil futures rose Friday, trimming modest weekly losses after a warning on the global oil glut. January WTI oil rose $0.26 or 0.5 percent to close at $57.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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This article appears in: Politics , Stocks , World Markets , US Markets

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