Asia stocks drift after savage sell-off

17-May-2012 Intellasia | Marketwatch | 10:40 AM Print This Post

Asian stocks oscillated between small gains and losses Thursday, one day after a heavy beatdown that saw South Korean, Australian and Hong Kong stocks put in their worst one-day performance of the year.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HK:HSI +0.64 percent rose 0.1%, while the Shanghai Composite Index CN:000001 +0.74 percent edged up 0.2%.

South Korea’s Kospi KR:SEU +0.50 percent rose 0.1%, while Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average JP:100000018 -0.20 percent traded down 0.4%, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index AU:XJO -0.43 percent lost 0.7%.

US shares ended lower Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA -0.26 percent languishing near a four-month low, as investors contrasted improved domestic data with heightened concerns about Greece’s future membership in the euro zone. Read US Market Snapshot.

Political developments in Europe have kept global equity investors sidelined this week, with Greece now headed back to the polls in June for an election which may eventually lead to its exit from the euro zone.

Greek depositors are reported to be steadily withdrawing funds from the nation’s retail banks, spooking investors with the prospect of capital flight in other economically weaker areas of the European currency bloc. See First Take on Greece.

The European Central Bank’s continued support for the Greek banks remained unclear, going by recent reports, with some stating that the ECB is mulling freezing funding for the lenders, but later reports stating that there’s been no change in the central bank’s position on funding for Greek lenders. Read more on ECB and Greek banks.

The European crisis has hit Japanese exporters’ shares in recent sessions, as the yen has strengthened against the euro even as it has weakened against the US dollar.

Some Tokyo-listed exporters added to those losses Thursday, as Pioneer Corp. JP:6773 -2.71 percent PNCOY -1.79 percent fell 3.9%, Nikon Corp. JP:7731 -1.55 percent NINOY -4.82 percent lost 1.7%, and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. JP:7211 -1.30 percent MMTOF -5.66 percent traded 1.3 percent lower.

Hyundai Motor Co. HYMTF -6.32 percent fell 1 percent in Seoul, while Kia Motors Corp. KIMTF +8.02 percent edged down 0.3 percent and Samsung Electronics Co. SSNLF -52.80 percent fell 2%.

While both gold and oil futures settled US trade Wednesday at their lowest levels so far for 2012, Asia investors dipped a toe back into some battered resource firms Thursday as commodity futures recovered a touch in electronic trading.

In Hong Kong, oil giant Cnooc Ltd. HK:883 +2.41 percent CEO -1.82 percent rose 1.8%, while PetroChina Ltd. HK:857 +1.38 percent PTR -1.98 percent climbed 1.4%, and China Coal Energy Co. HK:1898 +2.12 percent CCOZY -4.72 percent rose 1.1%.

Japanese steel makers were also higher, as JFE Holdings Inc. JP:5411 +2.78 percent JFEEF -16.05 percent gained 2.8%, Nippon Steel Corp. JP:5401 +2.23 percent NISTF -1.33 percent advanced 2.2%, and Kobe Steel Ltd. JP:5406 +1.03 percent KBSTY -3.14 percent climbed 1%.

The steel names got a boost as data out before the start of trading showed better-than-expected first-quarter economic growth in Japan. See report on Japanese GDP.

The Australian mining sector also rose, with BHP Billition Ltd. AU:BHP +0.59 percent BHP -2.05 percent up 0.5%, paring week-to-date losses to 4.6%, and PanAust Ltd. AU:PNA +0.37 percent PNAJF -15.00 percent traded up 0.5%.

However, Commonwealth Bank of Australia AU:CBA -2.07 percent CBAUF -0.96 percent fell 2.2 percent in Sydney, as the nation’s largest bank reported a 3 percent rise in adjusted third quarter profit, missing the median forecast from a Dow Jones Newswires survey. Read report on CBA earnings.

Other banks trading in Australia were also losing ground, with Westpac Banking Corp. AU:WBC -1.98 percent WEBNF -2.51 percent down 2.4%, and Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. AU:ANZ -0.65 percent ANEWF -0.81 percent lower by 1.3%. -By Sarah Turner

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