The major markets across the Asia-Pacific region witnessed mixed trading on Tuesday ahead of the G20 meeting in London, where the global leaders are expected to discuss measures to overcome the worst global recession in recent years. Economic fundamentals are very weak with no sign of recovery, and the initial results of the stimulus measures announced by the various governments and central banks to revive the global economy are yet to yield significant tangible results.
Shrugging off the weakness in the U.S. markets overnight, most markets in the region opened higher following news that the Japanese Prime Minister would announce a third stimulus package, and the release of a positive conomic indicator from South Korea. However, the euphoria faded after the Japanese PM failed to make any concrete announcement concerning it and the markets pared early gains. Nevertheless, selective buying by institutional investors and fund managers on the last trading day of the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008-09 for window-dressing their financial statements propped up the markets.
On Monday, the Dow closed down 254.16 points or 3.3% at 7,522, the Nasdaq closed down 43.40 points or 2.8% at 1,502 and the S&P 500 closed down 28.41 points or 3.5% at 787.
In Asian trading, crude oil was up modestly. Light sweet crude for May delivery closed at $48.41 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday, down $3.97 a barrel, on worries over the banking and automobile sectors in the U.S.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index declined 126.59 points or 1.54% to close at 8,110, and the broader Topix Index of all First section issues shed 16 points to close at 778.
The markets, having opened higher and traded in the positive territory until mid-morning, reversed trend in early after-noon trading on information about the likely delay in the announcement of the stimulus package. The euphoria paved way for skepticism and investors sold off shares on the last trading day of the fourth quarter and fiscal year, ahead of Tankan survey.
Among a raft of economic data on Tuesday, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said that Japan's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate came in at 4.4% in February, slightly higher that forecasts for a 4.3% increase after the 4.1% gain in January.
All household spending was down 3.5% year-on-year versus expectations for a 4.7% annual fall after the 5.9% contraction in January. Wage earner household spending was off an annual 1%. The propensity to consume came in at 75.7%, up 1.6 points on year. It was 87.1% in January.
Financial stocks ended weaker. Mitsubishi UFJ declined 2.86%, Mizuho Financial lost 3.05%, Sumitomo Mitsui decreased 6.83%, and Resona Holdings shed 3.32%. Brokerage Nomura ended down by 5.53%.
Exporters also ended weaker. Canon lost 2.73%, Sony ended down 3.24% and Sharp decreased 6.27%. However, automakers ended mixed. While Toyota lost 0.64%, Honda gained 0.65%
Oil-related stocks showed mixed sentiment. While Inpex edged up 0.29%%, Nippon Oil lost 1.22% and Showa Shell decreased 2.68%. Meanwhile, trading house Mitsubishi Corp. shed 2.65%, Sumitomo Corp. lost 3.66% and Itochu gave up 1.85%.
In Australia, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index declined 0.60% or 22.30 points to close at 3,582 and the broader All Ordinaries index lost 21.90 points or 0.60% to close at 3,532.
The markets, having opened lower from their previous close on weaker cues from Wall Street, continued to linger in negative territory amid volatile trading despite attempts to stage a recovery. Positive news from Macquarie Group powered the stocks into positive territory briefly in late afternoon, but the markets could not sustain the gains, eventually ending in the red, slightly above the day's low. Resource and financial stocks led the declines.
On the economic front, Reserve Bank of Australia's financial aggregates data for February showed that credit issued to the private sector in Australia was up 5.4% on year in February, while credit issued was steady with a 0.5% gain on month.
In the resources sector, index leader BHP Billiton fell 1.97% and Rio Tinto shed 1.10%, on lower commodity prices.
Gold miners ended higher, despite gold closing lower for a second straight session on Monday. Lihir Gold advanced 1.55%, Sino Gold gained 2.72%, and Newcrest Mining rose 1.30%.
Among energy stocks, Woodside decreased 2.83%, and Oil Search lost 4.01%, while Santos ended higher by 0.66% after the oil and gas producer submitted a draft environmental impact statement for the A$7.7 billion liquefied natural gas project near Gladstone in Queensland in a joint venture with Malaysia's state-owned Petronas.
The benchmark KOSPI Index in South Korea gained 0.73% or 8.80 points to close at 1,206.
Manufacturing sentiment in the country rose, as more companies are optimistic that the recent stimulus package unveiled by the Government as well as steps initiated to revive the banking sector will yield positive results. According to Bank of Korea report, business survey index of manufacturers' expectations increased to 60 for April from 50 reported for March 2009.
Automakers ended higher on expectations local carmakers will benefit from the crisis in the U.S auto market. Hyundai Motor advanced 4.72%, and Kia Motor gained 5.96%, while Ssangyong Motor pared early gains and ended unchanged.
Financials ended mixed. KB Financial Group, the holding firm of Kookmin Bank, lost 2.51%, Shinhan Financial gained 1.23%. Woori Finance remained unchanged at previous close.
Shipbuilders ended mixed. While Hyundai Heavy Industries declined 1.26%, Daewoo Ship building gained 0.99%, and Samsung Heavy Industries rose 3.13%.
The benchmark Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong gained 0.89% or 119.69 points to close at 13,576.
Among property stocks, MTR Corp., Henderson Land and Hang Lung Property ended higher while stocks such as New World Development, Swire Pacific, Shopping Property, and Sino Land pared initial gains and ended lower on profit taking.
Among the index heavyweights, China Mobile gained 0.80%, while HSBC Holdings edged down 0.12%. However, most other bank and insurance stocks ended higher on selective buying by institutional investors.
Among the other major markets in the region, China's Shanghai Composite Index gained 15.17 points, or 0.64% to close at 2,373, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite Index advanced 1.06% or 14.98 points to close at 1,434, Singapore's Strait Times Index rose 1.60% or 26.85 points to 1,700, and Taiwan's Weighted Index moved up 4.79 points, or 0.09% to 5,211.
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