The major markets across Asia-Pacific region are trading lower on Wednesday, taking cues from Wall Street where the major indices declined for the second consecutive day on increasing concerns that weaker earnings for the quarter ended March may thwart hopes of an earlier-than-expected global economic recovery.
On Tuesday, the Dow closed down 186.29 points or 2.3% at 7,790, while the Nasdaq closed down 45.10 points or 2.8% at 1,562 and the S&P 500 closed down 19.93 points or 2.4% at 816.
Alcoa, which kickstarted the earnings season in the U.S., released first quarter results after the markets closed, reporting a net loss that was worse than analysts' expectations, with the company attributing the loss to the weakness in its core industrial and commercial markets as well as the historic decline in aluminum prices.
In Asian trading, crude oil ended lower by $1.15 at $48.00 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $1.90 at $49.15 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Tuesday amid demand concerns on signs of a deepening global economic downturn. Traders now look forward to the weekly inventory report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration or EIA, due out later in the day.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index declined 2.7% or 237.84 points to 8.595, and the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues fell 17.34 points, or 2.1%, to 815.
On the economic front, preliminary data released by the Ministry of Finance revealed that current account surplus for February slumped 55.6% to 1.117 trillion yen from the same period last year. The trade balance was 202.1 billion yen, down 80.4% on year as imports fell a record 44.9% and exports plummeted 50.4% - also a record. Analysts had expected a trade surplus of 142 billion yen following the 844.4 billion yen deficit in January.
Among the major exporters, Canon lost 5.48%, Sony fell 4.96% and Sharp ended down 6.12%. Trading houses also ended weak. Mitsubishi Corp. slipped 1.77%, Sumitomo Corp. shed 2.92% and Itochu lost 3.40%.
Oil stocks declined on lower crude oil prices. Inpex declined 3.43%, Showa Shell lost 2.31%, and Nippon Oil fell 2.83%.
Among automakers, Honda Motor dropped 1.96% and Isuzu Motors slumped 11.27%. However, Toyota Motor added 0.27%.
In the financial space, Mitsubishi UFJ dropped 3.75%, Sumitomo Mitsui lost 3.92% and Resona Holdings slipped 1.57%. Brokerage Nomura Holdings fell 1.38%. Mizuho Financial remained unchanged.
In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index declined 86.8 points or 2.34% at to close at 3619, and the broader All Ordinaries Index lost 81 points, or 2.22% at to 3,567.
On the economic front, the Westpac/Melbourne Institute's survey of consumer sentiment for April showed that Australian consumer confidence surged up 8.3% to 92.7 points in April.
Mining stocks declined following weaker quarterly results from Alcoa. BHP Billiton fell 2.81%, Alumina Ltd lost 6.35% and Rio Tinto edged down 0.70%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside declined 3.39%, Oil Search lost 1.88%, and Santos fell 2.71%.
Financial stocks ended lower. Commonwealth Bank of Australia declined 3.99%, ANZ Banking Group lost 4.12%, and National Australia Bank fell 4.42%. Westpac slipped 1.43%, and investment bank Macquarie Group ended lower by 5.90%.
On the other hand, Gold-related stocks advanced on higher gold prices. Lihir Gold advanced 2.72%, Newcrest Mining gained 1.25%, and Sino Gold edged up 1.36%.
In the retail sector, David Jones fell 2.05%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers lost 2.03%, and Woolworths slipped 0.66%.
In Hong Kong, the benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped 3.04% or 454.11 points, to close at 14,475.
Bank stocks are the major losers. HSBC Holdings lost 5.57%, Hang Seng Bank slipped 1.61%, Bank of Communications fell 4.59%, Bank of China edged down 1.10% and Bank of East Asia lost 2.56%.
Insurance stocks also ended lower. Ping An slipped 4.42% and China Life lost 2.74%.
Among property stocks, Henderson Land dropped 2.79%, Wharf Holdings edged down 0.24%, SHK Properties fell 2.63%, New World Development declined 4.22% and Sino Land lost 2.52%.
Resource stocks also slipped. Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, lost 4.55%, CNOOC fell 4.14% and PetroChina declined 3.79%.
Among China-related stocks, China Resources declined 2.49%, China Mercantile Holding moved down 0.94% and China Overseas fell 4.01%.
In Seoul, the benchmark KOSPI Index dropped 2.93% or 38.03 points to 1,262, as investors preferred to take profits following a recent rally.
On the economic front, a report released by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Korea Plant Industries Association revealed that industrial plant orders plunged 61.3% year-on-year during the first quarter of 2009 to US$ 4.9 billion from US$11.2 billion reported last year, as businesses and government tightened spending amid the global economic crisis.
Financials led the declines. KB Financial Group lost 4.59%, Shinhan Financial fell 4.50% and Woori Finance shed 5.76%.
Technology stocks also ended weaker. Hynix Semiconductor lost 2.10%, LG Electronics fell 1.96%, and LG Display declined 3.63%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics dropped 4.62%.
Among the shipbuilders, Hyundai Heavy Industries slumped 6.56%, Daewoo Shipping lost 5.21%, and Samsung Heavy Industries lost 2.54%.
In the auto space, Hyundai Motor declined 3.99%, and Kia Motor fell 4.89%. However, Ssangyong Motor advanced 14.85% after unveiling a restructuring program.
Among oil-related stocks, S-Oil shed 2.50% and SK Holdings fell 2.56% on lower crude oil prices.
Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index slipped 3.76% or 91.79 points to 2,347, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index lost 21.53 points or 1.44% to 1,469, Singapore's Strait Times Index declined 1.02% or 18.43 points to 1,784, and Taiwan's Weighted Index ended lower at 5,443, down 2.39% or 133.29 points.
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