Asian Markets Mostly Lower Amid Cautious Trades

roche futures

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday after U.S. stocks fell overnight for a second straight session and as government debt yields rose to their highest levels in nearly four years.

Investors are also cautious as they kept an eye on U.S. President Donald Trump's upcoming State of the Union address and the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement due later in the day.

The Australian market is declining for a second straight day following the negative lead overnight from Wall Street and lower commodity prices. Weaker-than-expected local economic data also weighed on investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 9.90 points or 0.16 percent to 6,012.90, off a low of 5,993.60 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 12.90 points or 0.21 percent to 6,122.40.

In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are down in a range of 0.1 percent to 0.3 percent.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has commenced court action against Commonwealth Bank for allegedly engaging in unconscionable conduct and seeking to manipulate a key inter-bank interest rate.

Among oil stocks, Woodside Petroleum is down more than 1 percent, Santos is declining almost 2 percent and Oil Search is losing more than 2 percent after crude oil prices fell overnight for a second straight session.

Origin Energy said its oil and gas production for the half year rose 12 percent and revenues grew 40 percent. However, the company's shares are also declining more than 2 percent.

The major miners are weak after iron ore prices dipped overnight. Fortescue Metals is lower by 0.4 percent, BHP Billiton is declining 0.7 percent and Rio Tinto is losing more than 1 percent.

Among gold miners, Newcrest Mining is adding 0.2 percent and Evolution Mining is rising more than 2 percent despite gold prices falling for a third straight day.

Treasury Wine Estates reported a 37 percent increase in its first-half net profit despite lower revenues, and said it is targeting "accelerated growth" by restructuring its U.S. business. The wine maker and distributor's shares are rising more than 1 percent.

Shares of cancer treatment specialist Sirtex Medical are surging almost 46 percent after resuming trading on Wednesday following news that U.S. cancer care company Varian Medical Systems has agreed to acquire the company for A$1.59 billion.

In economic news, the Reserve Bank of Australia said that private sector credit in Australia was up 0.3 percent on month in December. That was shy of expectations for 0.5 percent, which would have been unchanged.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said that consumer prices in Australia were up 0.6 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2017. That was shy of expectations for 0.7 percent, although it was unchanged from the three months prior.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar was higher against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. In early trades, the local unit was quoted at US$0.8087, up from US$0.8066 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market has pared earlier losses and is modestly lower following the weak cues from Wall Street and on a flat yen. Nevertheless, upbeat Japanese industrial output data helped boost investor sentiment.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is down 11.65 points or 0.05 percent to 23,280.32, off a low of 23,184.00 in early trades.

The major exporters are higher on a slightly weaker yen. Panasonic is adding 0.6 perecnt, Sony is higher by 0.8 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is advancing more than 1 percent and Canon is rising more than 2 percent. Meanwhile, SoftBank Group's shares are lower 0.7 percent.

NEC Corp's shares are rising more than 4 percent after the electronics maker said Tuesday that it will cut 3,000 jobs and also close some of its plants in Japan in a bid to reduce costs.

Among automakers, Toyota is down 0.1 percent and Honda is declining more than 1 percent. In the banking sector, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is losing 0.3 percent and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is lower by 0.5 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is losing 0.6 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is down 0.2 percent after crude oil prices extended losses overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Yokogawa Electric is gaining more than 5 percent and Advantest Corp. is rising more than 4 percent.

On the flip side, Tokyo Electron is losing more than 4 percent, Kobe Steel is lower by more than 3 percent and Nisshin Steel is down almost 3 percent.

On the economic front, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said in Wednesday's preliminary reading that industrial production in Japan jumped a seasonally adjusted 2.7 percent on month in December. That beat expectations for an increase of 1.5 percent following the 0.5 percent gain in November.

Japan will also see December numbers for housing starts and January results for its consumer confidence index today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 108 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Elsewhere in Asia, Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Taiwan are also lower, while New Zealand and South Korea are modestly higher. The markets in Malaysia are closed on Wednesday for Thaipusam.

On Wall Street, stocks extended losses on Tuesday on continued profit taking, with traders cashing in on the recent strength of the markets. Traders were also looking ahead to the Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement later on Tuesday and employment data on Friday.

The Dow plunged 362.59 points or 1.4 percent to 26,076.89, the Nasdaq slid 64.02 points or 0.9 percent to 7,402.48 and the S&P 500 slumped 31.10 points or 1.1 percent to 2,822.43.

The major European markets also moved lower on Tuesday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index tumbled by 1.1 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index dropped by 1 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures extended losses on Tuesday amid expectations that U.S. oil production will remain robust throughout the year. WTI crude fell $1.06 or 1.5 percent to $64.50 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, falling further from a recent four-year peak above $66.