Asian Shares Fall as Fears of Global Trade War Thickens
By Investors Hub
Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Monday as fears of a global trade war persisted and the prospect of a hung Parliament in Italy looked increasingly likely.
Chinese shares ended largely unchanged as Chinese leaders headed into an annual parliament meeting and a survey showed activity in China’s services sector cooled slightly last month. The Caixin services PMI dropped to 54.2 from 54.7 in January.
Meanwhile, China maintained its growth target for 2018, despite the economy surpassing the goal last year, as the government aims to contain corporate debt and rein in pollution.
Premier Li Keqiang set the growth target at ‘around 6.5 percent’ for 2018. This was unchanged from the last year’s target.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index closed marginally higher at 3,256.53, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index plunged 697.06 points or 2.28 percent to 29,886.39.
Hong Kong’s private sector growth accelerated in February, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed today with a PMI score of 51.7, up from 51.1 in January.
Japanese shares hit a near five-month low as the safe-haven yen strengthened amid worries about a global trade war. The Nikkei average dropped 139.55 points or 0.66 percent to 21,042.09, the lowest level since mid-October. The broader Topix index closed 13.55 points or 0.79 percent lower at 1,694.79.
Steelmakers extended Friday’s losses as the EU prepared retaliatory measures against proposed U.S. tariffs. Kobe Steel declined 1.5 percent, Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal shed 1.8 percent and JFE Holdings lost 2.5 percent.
In economic news, the latest survey from Nikkei showed that the services sector in Japan continued to expand in February, albeit at a slightly slower pace, with a PMI score of 51.7, down from 51.9 in January.
Australian shares joined a global slide, with material companies and financials leading the decliners. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 33.90 points or 0.57 percent to 5,895, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 32 points or 0.53 percent at 5,996.40.
Miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto shed 1.8 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively amid controversy over Donald Trump’s announcement of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.
The big four banks fell between half a percent and 1.2 percent while energy majors Origin Energy, Oil Search and Santos ended down between 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent.
Retail Food Group plummeted as much as 36.5 percent after a series of pessimistic announcements. Job advertiser Seek advanced 1.9 percent after the company said it would buy News Corp.’s 13.75 percent stake in Seek Asia for A$157 million.
On the economic front, a slew of reports on Australian building approvals, job advertisements, company operating profits, inflation and services sector activity painted a mixed picture of the economy.