- Australia's S&P/ASX 200 drops 2.1% as BHP Billiton tumbles
- Mazda, TDK slide in Tokyo as stronger yen weighs on exporters
Asian stocks fell on low trading volume as energy shares dropped with oil and a stronger yen weighed on Japanese equities.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.9 percent to 119.23 as of 5:01 p.m. in Tokyo, extending its 2016 retreat to 9.7 percent. Material and energy companies led losses on the benchmark gauge on Wednesday, with Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index falling 2.1 percent. U.S. crude slid 2.6 percent, extending a 4.6 percent loss last session, after Saudi Arabia said a recent agreement to freeze output won’t lead to production cuts, while Iran called the deal “ridiculous.”
“It will take some time before market sentiment does turn,” Kerry Craig, global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management Inc., which oversees $1.7 trillion, told Bloomberg TV in Melbourne. “It’s still very pessimistic. Most investors are very risk-averse. You need catalysts or triggers such as an oil-price stabilization, clarity about what the Fed is actually going to do and what we see happening with the Chinese currency and economic data.”
Worries this year have centered on the slowdown in China’s economy, tumbling oil prices and the pace of U.S. interest-rate increases. Private gauges of Chinese manufacturing and services fell to new lows in February and a reading of business confidence slipped, signaling the nation’s growth slowdown hasn’t bottomed out yet.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index retreated 1.2 percent, with volume about 30 percent below average. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index lost 1.3 percent and Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.9 percent, trimming this year’s decline to 17 percent. The yuan weakened for a fourth day before the start of Group of 20 meetings in Shanghai on Friday.
Japan’s Topix index fell 0.5 percent as the yen held gains against the dollar after rising 0.7 percent on Tuesday. About 22 percent fewer shares than average changed hands in Tokyo.
India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index lost 0.8 percent and South Korea’s Kospi index retreated 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gauge posted its biggest drop in two weeks as BHP Billiton Ltd. tumbled 8.2 percent for its largest decline since 2008. New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index rose 0.9 percent.
Standard Chartered Plc sank 6.3 percent in Hong Kong after the bank posted its first annual loss since 1989. The Asia-focused lender reported a pretax loss of $1.5 billion in 2015, down from profit of $4.2 billion a year earlier, as revenue missed estimates and loan impairments almost doubled to the highest in the bank’s history.
Wesfarmers Ltd. lost 4.9 percent in Sydney after the retailer posted profit that missed analyst expectations and announced leadership changes at its department stores.
Japanese exporters fell. Mazda Motor Corp. lost 2.6 percent and TDK Corp., the Apple Inc. supplier that gets more than 90 percent of revenue abroad, dropped 3.5 percent.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slipped 0.1 percent. The underlying gauge retreated 1.3 percent on Tuesday. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index rose 8.3 percent to 20.98, the largest increase in two weeks.