The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region ended lower on Tuesday, mirroring sentiment on Wall Street where the major indices, despite regaining some lost ground, ended lower, on profit taking. Negative comments from analysts on financial stocks, and lower commodity prices also weighed on the markets ahead of the earnings season in the U.S, which will be kick started by Alcoa today.
The Dow closed Monday's session down 41.74 points or 0.5% at 7,976, the Nasdaq closed down 15.16 points or 0.9% at 1,607 and the S&P 500 closed down 7.02 points or 0.8% at 835.
In Asian trading, crude oil advanced $0.50 to $51.55 a barrel in electronic trading. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed down $1.46 at $51.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday over demand concerns. Traders now look forward to Wednesday's Department of Energy inventory report.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index, having opened weaker at 8,834 compared to its previous close of 8,858, ended down 25.28 points, or 0.28%, at 8,832, while the broader Topix index of all First Section Issues nudged up 1.63 points to close at 833.
The Bank of Japan has decided to leave the overnight lending rate at 0.1%. The bank, in an effort to ease credit, has decided to accept loans on deeds to municipal government as eligible collateral security from lenders.
Among automakers, Honda Motor advanced 2.19% and Isuzu Motors gained 2.16%. Toyota Motor remained unchanged.
Financial stocks ended mixed on profit taking. Mitsubishi UFJ dropped 1.17%, Mizuho Financial fell 2.45%, and Sumitomo Mitsui slipped 1.11%. However, Resona Holdings edged up 0.45%.
Exporters also ended mixed. While Canon lost 64% and Sharp fell 0.80%, Sony remained unchanged from previous close. However, Trading houses moved to the upside. Mitsubishi Corp. advanced 0.48%, Sumitomo Corp. moved up 0.54% and Itochu gained 1.53%.
Oil stocks showed weakness on lower crude oil prices. Inpex fell 2.41%, Showa Shell lost 2.57%, and Nippon Oil decreased 4.07%.
In Sydney, the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index declined 50.3 points, or 1.34%, at 3706.3, and the broader All Ordinaries index lost 47.9 points, or 1.3%, to 3648.5.
On the economic front, the Australian Industry Group/Housing Industry Association's Performance of Construction index for March registered a reading of 30.4, a gain of 0.9 points from the February reading but still below the 50.0 mark that separates expansion in the sector from contraction.
In a central bank decision, the Reserve Bank of Australia lowered the interest rate by 0.25% to a 49-year low of 3.00% with effect from April 8, 2009. The central bank noted that the Australian economy is contracting at a much less rate in comparison to other major trading partners.
Financial and resource stocks led the declines as investors preferred to take profits ahead of the U.S. earnings season.
Among financial stocks, ANZ Banking Group lost 1.16%, Commonwealth Bank shed 1.36%, National Australia Bank declined 2.29% and Westpac Banking slipped 1.93%. Investment bank Macquarie Group fell 4.87%
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton declined 3.83%, and Rio Tinto plunged 10.02%. Gold miners ended mixed. While Lihir Gold gained 1.03%, Sino Gold lost 2.29%, and Newcrest Mining dropped 1.61%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside slipped 0.63%, Oil Search fell 3.45%, and Santos declined 1.45%.
Telephone company Telstra Corp Ltd rose 4.36% after the government announced plans to build a new A$43 billion national high-speed fibre-optic broadband network. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the government would ask private companies join a new private-public firm to build the network. The project will support 37,000 jobs.
Retail stocks ended higher. David Jones advanced 0.34%, Coles' owner Wesfarmers gained 0.79%, and Woolworths added 1.43%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index ended lower at 14,929, down 69.07 points, or 0.46%. Property stock led the decline on profit taking.
Henderson Land declined 2.84%, Wharf Holdings lost 4.78%, SHK Properties fell 1.84%, New World Development slipped 2.63% and Hang Lung Property moved down 1.42%.
Banking stocks ended mixed. HSBC Holdings dropped 1.63% and BOC Hong Kong lost 1.28%, Bank of Communications gained 1.67%, Bank of East Asia advanced 3.93% and ICBC added 1.67%.
Insurance stocks ended weak. Ping An lost 3.69% and China Life slipped 1.08%.
Among resource stocks, Aluminum Corporation of China, or CHALCO, fell 3.00%, CNOOC lost 3.07% and PetroChina declined 2.08%.
China-related stocks ended mixed. While China Resources gained 1.35%, China Mercantile Holdings lost 4.64% and China Overseas edged down 0.92%.
In South Korea, the benchmark KOSPI Index ended higher by 2.25 points, or 0.17% at 1,300.
Financials declined on concerns about loss on equity investments, and profit taking. KB Financial Group fell 2.24% and, Shinhan Financial lost 2.86%. However, Woori Finance gained 0.95%.
Shipbuilders ended lower on profit taking. Hyundai Heavy Industries declined 2.29%, Samsung Heavy Industries slipped 1.08%, and Daewoo Shipping edged down 0.43%.
Among the automakers, Hyundai Motor gained 0.97%, and Kia Motor advanced 0.84%.
Technology stocks ended mixed. Hynix Semiconductor gained 1.06% and LG Display gained 1.44%, but LG Electronics edged down 0.10%. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics lost 1.68%.
Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 19.40 points, or 0.80% to 2,439 and Taiwan's Weighted Index advanced 20.63 points or 0.37% to 5,577. However, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index fell 25.78 points, or 1.70% to close at 1,491, and Singapore's Strait Times Index lost 48.52 points, or 2.63% to close at 1,799.
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