Asia stocks open mixed on Thursday

Asia stocks open mixed on Thursday

Asia markets opened mixed on Thursday, following a mostly higher finish on Wall Street overnight.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 extended its losses of 3.15 per cent in the previous session, opening 0.76 per cent lower, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was up 0.47 per cent.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was up 0.61 per cent at 2,566.28 in early trade, The Straits Times reported.

Australia's ASX 200 traded higher by 1.17 per cent, with the energy sector retracing losses from Wednesday's session, up by 3.72 per cent. Energy plays Santos and Oil Search saw early gains of 7.40 per cent and 4.92 per cent, respectively. Resources stocks were also trading mostly positive, with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton gaining 4.21 and 4.27 per cent respectively.

Toshiba shares were down 5.29 per cent at market open after the company said it is looking into whether to deepen its full-year loss forecast. The company is set to report its earnings later in the day. Japanese news media Kyodo News and the Nikkei reported that the company will downgrade its net loss projection to over 600 billion yen ($5.1 billion), from the current forecast of 550 billion yen in losses, for the year ending March 31.

Chris Weston, chief market strategist at spreadbetter IG, wrote in a morning note that Asian equities excluding Japan will likely be supported today with follow-through buying. For the Nikkei, Weston said it would likely be sold on the strength of the Japanese yen. The dollar-yen pair traded at 118.01 at market open.

The dollar slipped 1.65 per cent overnight against a basket of currencies as weak US economic data suggested a March interest rate hike from the data-dependent Federal Reserve was unlikely. The ISM non-manufacturing index's January reading came in at 53.5, below the expected 55.1 and the lowest reading since December 2013.

Weston said, though, that dollar had been "taken to the cleaners" even before the release of US data.

"The selling in the USD has been ferocious. It's been one way and whether it was driven by oil selling, liquidity, a full re-pricing of US rate hikes, or some more mysterious theme, the USD selling has resonated in markets," he said.

Oil prices jumped overnight, with US crude futures rising $2.40, or 8 per cent, to $32.28 a barrel. Global benchmark Brent settled up $2.32, or 7.1 per cent, at $35.04 a barrel.

But oversupply remains and with no signs of imminent production cuts from OPEC, Weston said volatility in crude could easily see prices gaining or declining by 5-10 per cent in the Asian session on Thursday.

Major indexes in the US finished mixed, with the Dow Jones industrial average gaining 183.12 points, or 1.13 per cent, to 16,336.6. The S&P 500 was up 9.5 points, or 0.5 per cent, at 1,912.53, while the Nasdaq composite slipped 12.71 points, or 0.28 per cent, to 4,504.24.

On the earnings front, major brands across the region are expected to release data, including Sharp, Inpex, Tata Steel, and Singapore Airlines.

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