Tech Stocks Weigh On Asian Markets

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Asian stock markets, led by Japan, are declining on Tuesday reflecting weakness in technology stocks after Facebook shares tumbled overnight amid allegations political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately obtained and used the social media giant's user data.

Investors also remained cautious ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy announcement on Wednesday, with the central bank widely expected to raise interest rates by 25 basis points.

The Australian market is declining following the negative cues from Wall Street amid lingering concerns about a potential trade war and a plunge in Facebook shares that weighed on technology stocks. In addition, weak commodity prices dragged down resources stocks.

In late-morning trades, the S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 27.10 points or 0.45 percent to 5,932.30, off a low of 5,915.60. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 29.20 points or 0.48 percent to 6,035.50.

The major miners are weak after iron ore prices fell overnight to its lowest level since November. BHP Billiton is losing more than 2 percent, while Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals are down more than 1 percent each.

Oil stocks are also lower after crude oil prices declined overnight. Santos is down 0.4 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search are lower by almost 1 percent each.

Gold miners are higher, aided by an increase in gold prices. Evolution Mining is advancing more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is adding 0.2 percent.

Among the big four banks, Commonwealth Bank is rising almost 1 percent, Westpac is adding 0.6 percent and National Australia Bank is edging up less than 0.1 percent.

ANZ Banking said it will consider an IPO for its New Zealand UDC Finance business after an agreement to sell the business to China's HNA was rejected by New Zealand regulators. The bank's shares are edging down less than 0.1 percent.

TPG Telecom reported an 11 percent decrease in first-half profit, but raised its full-year earnings outlook. The internet provider's shares are declining more than 2 percent.

Kathmandu Holdings reported a nearly 23 percent increase in first-half profit and said it has agreed to acquire U.S.-based Oboz Footwear for $60 million, with an earn-out of up to $15 million. The outdoor clothing and equipment retailer's shares are in a trading halt.

On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that house prices in Australia were up 1.0 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2017. That exceeded expectations for a flat reading following the 0.2 percent decline in the third quarter.

Members of the Reserve Bank of Australia's monetary policy board said that the global economy is continuing to see acceptable overall improvement, minutes from the board's March 6 meeting revealed on Tuesday. They also added that the domestic economy could be hampered by an appreciating exchange rate, the minutes said.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar continued to slide against the U.S. dollar on Tuesday. The local unit was quoted at US$0.7706, down from US$0.7692 on Monday.

The Japanese market is extending losses from the previous session, reflecting weakness in technology stocks following a plunge in Facebook shares. Ongoing worries about the political uncertainty in Japan also dragged stocks lower.

In late-morning trades, the benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 152.13 points or 0.71 percent to 21,328.77, off a low of 21,223.97 in early trades.

The major exporters are weak. Sony is down more than 1 percent, while Panasonic, Canon and Mitsubishi Electric are losing almost 1 percent each.

Among the major automakers, Toyota is down 0.4 percent while Honda is adding 0.3 percent. In the banking sector, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial is rising 0.4 percent while Sumitomo Mitsui Financial is edging down less than 0.1 percent.

In the oil space, Inpex is losing more than 1 percent and Japan Petroleum Exploration is down 0.5 percent after crude oil prices dipped overnight.

Among the market's best performers, Japan Post Holdings is rising more than 3 percent, while Dowa Holdings and Fukuoka Financial are adding more than 2 percent each.

On the flip side, Shiseido Co. is losing almost 4 percent, while Sumco Corp., Japan Steel Works and Yaskawa Electric are down more than 3 percent each.

In economic news, Japan will release final January numbers for its leading and coincident indexes today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 106 yen-range on Tuesday.

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

On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply lower on Monday, reflecting lingering concerns about a potential trade war as well as political uncertainty following recent developments in Washington. A steep drop by social media giant Facebook's shares were a heavy drag on the technology sector.

The Dow tumbled 335.60 points or 1.4 percent at 24,610.91, the Nasdaq plunged 137.74 points or 1.8 percent to 7,344.24 and the S&P 500 plummeted 39.09 points or 2,712.92.

The major European markets have all moved to the downside on Monday. While the French CAC 40 Index has fallen by 0.8 percent, the German DAX Index is down by 1.1 percent and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 1.3 percent.

Crude oil futures fell along with U.S. stocks Monday, as traders fretted over a litany of defections and firings from the Trump Administration. WTI crude dipped $0.28 or 0.5 percent to settle at $62.06 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.