Asia markets trade lower, Singapore share prices drop 0.56%

Asia markets trade lower, Singapore share prices drop 0.56%

Asia markets opened lower on Thursday, after US stocks dropped in reaction to disappointing earnings reports from key consumer discretionary and retail names.

The US markets falls came despite gains in oil prices on better-than-expected inventories numbers.

In Australia, the benchmark ASX 200 was down 0.56 per cent in early trade, led by a 1.22 per cent decline in the heavily-weighted financials sub-index.

In Singapore, share prices opened down by 0.19 per cent, with the Straits Times Index falling 5.3 points to 2,727.57, reported The Business Times.

Major Australian banks came under pressure Thursday morning, with shares ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac selling off. Westpac stock was down 3.83 per cent.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported that the country's financial regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), was preparing to lodge a longer statement of claim against Westpac on Friday.

The regulator had previously accused Westpac of market manipulation related to the setting of the bank bill swap reference rate between April 2010 and June 2012, the AFR reported. Westpac has reportedly denied the allegations, and accused ASIC of failing to understand interest rate risk management practices.

Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 0.79 per cent, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi dropped 0.46 per cent after market open.

Shares of Toyota dropped 4.1 per cent, after the automaker reported its full-year 2016 earnings on Wednesday after market close. While net income for the financial year that ended March 31 was up 6.4 per cent on-year, Toyota said it expected a 35.1 per cent decline in net income for the full-year 2017.

Other Japanese automakers were also under pressure on Thursday, with shares of Honda down 3.62 per cent, Mazda off 3 per cent and Nissan down 1.7 per cent. Shares of Mitsubishi Motors were suspended from trade on Thursday.

Nissan Motor and Mitsubishi Motors confirmed early Thursday that they were in talks over a possible capital tie-up, with reports saying that Nissan take a one-third stake in the latter. Mitsubishi Motors has come under pressure after admitting to cheating on mileage tests.

Meanwhile, troubled air bag-maker Takata saw its shares climb up 8 per cent, after reports said the company expected to be profitable for the financial year that started in April 2016. The company reported a net loss of 13.1 billion yen (S$164.09 million) for the year ended March 31, according to Reuters.

The dollar lost ground in the currency market overnight, with the dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of currencies, slipping to the 93 handle. As of 8:37 a.m. HK/SIN, the index was at 93.813.

"The lack of key data releases, weaker risk appetite and the lure of profit taking after six consecutive days of gains were the most apparent drivers for a softer dollar overnight," said Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at the National Australia Bank.

Fresh strength in the Japanese yen saw the currency slip from the 109 handle against the dollar on Wednesday; on Thursday morning Asia time, the dollar/yen traded at 108.35, putting pressure on Japanese export stocks. Shares of Mitsubishi Electric were down 1.13 per cent, Canon was down 0.75 per cent, while Sony gained 1.06 per cent.

A stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency.

Oil prices jumped overnight, with Reuters reporting that data from the US Energy Information Administration showed crude inventories fell 3.4 million barrels last week, against market expectations for an increase in inventory.

Global benchmark Brent futures settled up 4.6 per cent to US$47.60 (S$65.09) a barrel, while US crude rose 3.5 per cent to US$46.23.

Stateside, major indexes closed lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 1.21 per cent, the S&P 500 off by 0.96 per cent and the Nasdaq composite losing 1.02 per cent.

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