Asian Markets Mostly Lower


Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street and lower commodity prices. Investor reaction to upbeat regional economic data was also muted.

The Australian market is extending losses from the previous session. Investors also shrugged off upbeat local economic data.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 33.70 points or 0.56 percent to 6,014.90, slightly off a low of 6,014.30 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 32.40 points or 0.53 percent to 6,133.50.

The major miners are weak after a more than 1 percent decline in the price of iron ore. BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto are losing almost 3 percent each, while Fortescue Metals is declining more than 2 percent.

South32 has raised its outlook for South Africa manganese production and affirmed its full-year outlook for all other operations following a strong first-half performance. However, the miner's shares are lower by more than 1 percent.

Oz Minerals' shares are gaining almost 2 percent after the company reported a 34 percent surge in fourth-quarter gold production and also exceeded its own full-year production guidance.

Gold miners are mixed despite gold prices rising overnight to their highest level in more than four months. Newcrest Mining is edging up less than 0.1 percent, while Evolution Mining is losing more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Commonwealth Bank and Westpac are down in a range of 0.5 percent to 0.8 percent.

Among oil stocks, Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are losing 0.4 percent each and Santos is declining 0.3 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight for the first time in six sessions, easing from three-year highs.

A2 Milk Co. will roll out its products across some 5,000 stores in the U.S. this month. The diary producer's shares are rising more than 2 percent.

Sirtex Medical's shares are gaining more than 16 percent after the cancer treatment specialist said it expects a 16 percent increase in first-half earnings and also projected higher full-year earnings compared to last year.

In economic news, the latest survey from Westpac Bank revealed that consumer confidence in Australia picked up steam in January, as its index jumped 1.8 percent to a score of 105.1.That follows the 3.6 percent spike in December to a reading of 103.3.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total number of new home loans issued in Australia was up a seasonally adjusted 2.1 percent on month in November, coming in at 56,625. That beat expectations for a flat reading following the 0.6 percent decline in October.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar has slipped against the U.S. dollar. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.7960, up from US$0.7964 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is losing on a stronger yen, easing from 26-year highs in the previous session. Upbeat Japanese core machinery orders data failed to boost investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 110.41 points or 0.46 percent to 23,841.40, off a low of 23,739.17 earlier.

The major exporters are mostly lower on a stronger yen. Panasonic is declining almost 1 percent, Sony is down 0.5 percent and Canon is edging down less than 0.1 percent, while Mitsubishi Electric is rising more than 1 percent. SoftBank is lower by more than 1 percent.

In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is declining 1 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is down 0.6 percent. Among automakers, Honda is adding 0.3 percent and Toyota is rising 0.4 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex and Japan Petroleum Exploration are declining more than 2 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Advantest is rising almost 3 percent, TDK Corp. is higher by more than 2 percent and Kirin Holdings is advancing more than 1 percent. On the flip side, Fanuc Corp. is declining almost 3 percent, while Nippon Yusen and Showa Denko are losing more than 2 percent each.

On the economic front, the Cabinet Office said that the value of core machine orders in Japan surged a seasonally adjusted 5.7 percent on month in November, coming in at 899.2 billion yen. That beat expectations for a decline of 1.2 percent on month following the 5.0 percent jump in October.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 110 yen-range on Wednesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Tuesday after moving to the upside early in the session as better than expected quarterly results from Dow components Citigroup and UnitedHealth added to optimism about the earnings season. Profit taking may have contributed to the pullback by stocks, although the decline was relatively subdued compared to the recent strength.

The Dow edged down 10.33 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 25,792.86, the Nasdaq fell 37.38 points or 0.5 percent to 7,223.69 and the S&P 500 slid 9.82 points or 0.4 percent to 2,776.42.

The major European markets turned in a mixed performance on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dipped by 0.2 percent, the French CAC 40 Index inched up by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index rose by 0.4 percent.

Crude oil futures fell on Tuesday for the first time in six sessions, as the dollar stabilized from three-year lows. WTI crude fell $0.57 or 0.9 percent to settle at $63.73 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.