Asia markets down, Singapore shares open 0.62% lower

Asia markets down, Singapore shares open 0.62% lower

Asia markets opened lower on Tuesday, after Wall Street indexes finished nearly flat overnight.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was down as much as 0.98 per cent before retracing some losses to trade 0.37 per cent lower. South Korea's Kospi fell 0.51 per cent while Down Under, the ASX 200 trimmed losses to trade 0.37 per cent down, with the energy sector falling 1.86 per cent, following overnight losses in oil.

In Singapore, share prices opened 0.62 per cent lower, with the benchmark Straits Times Index down 16.17 points to 2,586.24, The Business Times reported.

Oil prices took a tumble in overnight trade as the optimism over a possible deal between OPEC and non-OPEC producers to reduce oversupply faded. Last week, expectations of a possible Russia-Saudi deal saw oil prices gain over 10 per cent. Prices remain at multi-year lows.

During US hours, globally traded Brent April crude futures were down US$1.79 (S$2.55), or 4.9 per cent, at US$34.20 a barrel, while the US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) finished $2, or 5.95 per cent, lower at $31.62 a barrel.

Energy plays across the region were mostly down, with Santos losing 2.79 per cent, Oil Search down 1.37 per cent and Woodside Petroleum lower by 1.83 per cent. Inpex was 4.32 per cent lower, while Japan Petroleum declined 3.67 per cent and S-Oil fell 0.98 per cent.

Elsewhere, resource stocks in Australia were mixed, with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton trading down 0.41 and 0.59 per cent, respectively. Sandfire Resources was up 2.59 per cent.

The Aussie dollar-US dollar pair was flat at 0.7112. Later today, the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) will meet for the first time in 2016. Most analysts believe the RBA will keep interest rates on hold at 2 per cent.

Moody's Analytics said in a note that while domestic demand remains steady, supported by employment growth and a falling Aussie dollar, the "Australian economy is struggling with falling commodity prices and weak global demand, [which] could prompt further easing down the track if things don't pick up."

In Japan, financial plays continued to extend losses, falling since Friday, when the Bank of Japan surprised markets with a negative interest rate policy move. Negative rates could affect their profit levels. Mitsubishi UFJ was down 1.87 per cent, SMFG down 1.22 per cent and Mizuho Financial saw losses of 0.46 per cent.

Companies reporting earnings in Japan today include Nintendo, Nomura Holding, Mitsubishi Corp. and Yahoo Japan.

South Korea's Lotte Group, according to reports, will be investigated by the Fair Trade Commission over allegations of falsified reporting of stakeholders. Shares of Lotte Shopping were down 0.85 per cent.

Among other blue chip stocks, Samsung Electronics traded lower by 0.86 per cent, while Kepco shares were up 0.75 per cent.

Major indexes stateside closed mixed, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 17.12 points, or 0.10 per cent, at 16,449.18. The S&P 500 fell 0.86 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 1,939.38, while the Nasdaq composite closed up 6.41 points, or 0.14 per cent, at 4,620.37.

Also on central bank watch, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is set to announce its monetary policy decision; analysts believe RBI will keep rates unchanged at 6.75 per cent.

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