Asian stocks ended Tuesday’s session on a lackluster note as weak cues from Wall Street overnight and Citigroup’s bearish forecasts for commodity prices kept investors on edge. While mainland Chinese shares extended recent gains, Hong Kong shares succumbed to profit taking after eight consecutive sessions of gains. Japanese shares closed on a flat note in the wake of comments by an adviser to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which indicated that the yen was excessively weak against the dollar.
China’s Shanghai Composite index rose 0.34 percent to close at 4,135.57, a fresh seven-year high, ahead of GDP data due out Wednesday. Alongside the GDP data, reports on factory output, retail sales and fixed asset investment could provide further clues about the health of the world’s second-largest economy.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 454.85 points or 1.62 percent to 27,561.49 as caution set in after sharp gains over the past eight sessions.
Japanese shares ended on a flat note as investors braced for the upcoming earnings season. The benchmark Nikkei average closed up 0.02 percent at 19,908.68 after briefly crossing the 20,000 level last week. The broader Topix index rose 0.29 percent to 1,590.82 on optimism the economy is gaining traction.
Exporters’ shares ended mixed, weighed down by a broadly firmer yen. Canon, Mazda Motor, Toyota Motor, Hitachi and Honda Motor rose between 0.3 percent and 1.1 percent, while Nikon, Panasonic and Nissan Motor fell between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent.
The safe-haven Japanese yen climbed for a third day against the dollar and hit a two-year high against the euro after Koichi Hamada, an economic adviser to Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, told a TV program that the currency has weakened far enough against the dollar.
Market heavyweight Fast Retailing shed 0.7 percent and Fanuc dropped 1.6 percent while SoftBank Corp rose 2 percent, extending Tuesday’s gains. Sony rallied 2.2 percent and Sharp Corp soared 5.6 percent, while Nintendo dropped 1.6 percent.
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Japan’s largest bank, gained 1.1 percent, Mizuho Financial edged up 0.3 percent and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group rose 0.4 percent. Trading house Itochu advanced 1.7 percent on a Nikkei report that it will likely generate a record net profit of 330 billion yen for the current year ending March 2016.
Australian shares fell for a second consecutive session, weighed down by losses in the resources and banking sectors. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 0.23 percent to close at 5,946.6. BHP Billiton dropped a percent and Rio Tinto edged down 0.6 percent after Standard and Poor’s put some of the world’s biggest iron ore miners on “credit watch negative” citing lower ore prices. Fortescue Metals climbed 3.4 percent on news that it will change the roster for its Pilbara workforce in order to bring down costs.
Gold miner Newcrest Mining fell 1.1 percent. Gold held steady near 1200 levels in Asian deals after slipping nearly 1 percent the day before. In the oil & gas sector, Santos, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search rose between 0.7 percent and 2 percent. Crude prices extended overnight gains on Tuesday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration said it expects U.S. shale oil output to record its first monthly decline in over four years.
The big four banks closed down between 0.3 percent and 1.1 percent. Insurance giant Suncorp Group rallied 2 percent after appointing GPT Group chief executive Michael Cameron as its new CEO. Toll road operator Transurban advanced 1.3 percent on reporting a 70 percent increase in third-quarter revenues.
On the economic front, Australian business sentiment and conditions showed tentative signs of improvement in March, the latest monthly National Australia Bank survey revealed. The business confidence index improved by 3 points to a score of +3, while the index for business conditions moved higher to +6 from +2 in the previous month.
Separately, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the total value of owner-occupied housing commitments in Australia rose 0.5 percent in February from the previous month.
Seoul shares gained ground, buoyed by increasing liquidity in the financial system and rising optimism over earnings. The benchmark Kospi average gained 0.61 percent to close above the 2,100-point level for the first time in about four years.
Financials paced the gainers, with Shinhan Financial Group and Hana Financial Group climbing 5-7 percent. Retailer Lotte Shopping soared 5.3 percent, utility Korea Electric Power Corp rose 1.4 percent and Hotel Shilla jumped 7.5 percent, extending Monday’s 15 percent rally.
New Zealand shares rose as Mighty River Power rebounded from recent sharp losses ahead of the looming second payment on its instalment receipts, due May 15. While Mighty River shares climbed 2.7 percent from a near six-month low, the benchmark NZX-50 index gained 0.47 percent to close at 5.882.11. Outdoor goods retailer Kathmandu Holdings led the decliners on the exchange, falling 1.5 percent to $1.34.
Singapore’s Straits Times index was moving up 0.8 percent. The Singapore economy grew by 2.1 percent year-over-year in the first quarter of 2015 based on advance estimates, unchanged from the rate of growth in the previous quarter, official figures showed. The Singapore dollar strengthened the most in two weeks after the Monetary Authority of Singapore refrained from easing policy further following a surprise move in January.
Elsewhere, the benchmark indexes in Indonesia, Malaysia and Taiwan were down between 0.2 percent and 0.8 percent, while the Indian markets were closed on account of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar Jayanti.
U.S. stocks succumbed to profit taking on Monday after two consecutive weeks of gains. Industrial, utility and energy stocks came under selling pressure amid concerns that a strong U.S. dollar and lower oil prices could weigh on first-quarter earnings. The Dow and the S&P 500 slid about half a percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq eased 0.2 percent.