Asian Equities End Mixed as Gold Prices Dip, Yen Slightly Up
By Investors Hub
Asian stocks ended on a mixed note on Thursday as investors awaited Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s second day of congressional testimony for further insight on inflation and interest rates. Gold prices dipped and the yen firmed up a little bit, while oil held mostly steady in Asian trading.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose 14.35 points or 0.4 percent to 3,273.76 after the latest survey from Caixin showed the country’s manufacturing sector expanded at a slightly faster rate in February. Hong Kong?s Hang Seng Index climbed 199.53 points or 0.7 percent to 31,044.25.
The Chinese manufacturing PMI inched up to 51.6 from 51.5 in January as total new work expanded at a slightly faster pace.
Meanwhile, Japanese shares closed sharply lower as the yen gained ground in reaction to a slew of weak U.S. data released overnight. The Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 343.77 points or 1.6 percent to 21,724.47, while the broader Topix Index ended 1.6 percent lower at 1,740.20.
The yen’s strength hurt exporters, with Canon, Panasonic, Toyota Motor and Sony losing 2-3 percent. Heavyweights Fast Retailing, SoftBank and Fanuc fell over 1 percent each.
On the other hand, Yahoo Japan advanced 1.6 percent after falling in the previous session on news that its second-largest shareholder Altaba Inc. is selling its stake in the company.
The manufacturing sector in Japan continued to expand in February, albeit at a slightly slower rate, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed with a manufacturing PMI score of 54.1, down from 54.8 in January.
Capital spending in Japan topped expectations to rise 4.3 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2017, while a gauge of consumer confidence unexpectedly weakened in February.
Australian shares tumbled, dragged down by energy stocks after crude oil prices fell more than 2 percent on Wednesday on data showing a larger-than-expected increase in crude oil inventories. Mining stocks also suffered heavy losses after iron ore and copper prices retreated.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index shed 42.70 points or 0.7 percent to finish at 5,973.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 41.60 points or 0.7 percent at 6,075.70.
Rio Tinto shares fell 4.1 percent on going ex-dividend and BHP Billiton dropped 1.3 percent. Smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group declined 1.8 percent to extend losses for the third straight day.
Energy majors Origin Energy, Beach Energy, Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 2-4 percent. The big four banks ended down between 0.2 percent and 0.9 percent.
Explosives and fertilizer maker Orica tumbled 3.5 percent after revealing impairments and writedowns of nearly $400 million.
On the economic front, the Australian manufacturing sector continued to expand in February, albeit at a slightly slower rate, the latest survey from AiG revealed with a PMI score of 57.5, down from 58.7 in January.