Hong Kong: Asia-Pacific stocks closed mostly down on Wednesday as crude prices slipped farther from record peaks, hitting oil company shares, but stayed high enough to fan worries that inflation will slow economic growth.
The Japanese stock market, Asia’s biggest, fell 1.32% with commodity stocks leading the decline as oil prices dipped to around $128 (Rs5,491) per barrel, compared with an all-time high last week above $135.
Australia, Taiwan and South Korea all closed down more than 1%. Hong Kong ended in the red too, but Chinese shares jumped nearly 2.5%, India rallied more than 1.5% and Singapore was up around 0.5%.
A file photograph of an investor looking at a stock price monitor at a private security company in Shanghai, China (Photo by: Eugene Hoshiko / AP)
Elsewhere, Thailand fell more than 2.5%, partly due to protests against proposed amendments to the country’s new constitution. The protests reminded some investors of the run-up to the country’s 2006 coup.
Among other smaller markets, Indonesia rose 1.5% as the government said the country would pull out of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries after becoming a net oil importer.
Investors in Asia are concerned that high oil prices will stoke already high Asian inflation, hitting consumer spending, business profits and forcing up interest rates, which could slow economic growth.
Official data so far have indicated robust Asian economic growth in the first three months of the year. Malaysia said on Wednesday its economy expanded by 7.1% over the period, faster than expected.
But there are still worries that Asia will slow as a US-led global slowdown bites harder. The US is battling a sagging housing market and the fallout from a financial crisis that has led to a global credit crunch.
Figures released on Tuesday showed US consumer confidence had plunged to a 16-year low in May, raising questions about American shoppers’ future appetite for Asian exports.
Japanese share prices closed down 1.32% as investors locked in gains after the previous day’s rally, remaining nervous about the health of the US economy, dealers said.
The benchmark Nikkei-225 index fell 183.87 points to 13,709.44. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares declined 19.56 points, or 1.43%, to 1,348.69.
Volume rose to 2.04 billion shares from 1.57 billion shares on Tuesday.
Despite the overnight drop, “oil prices remain high and investors are sceptical about (the chances of) oil prices falling further,” said Yumi Nishimura, manager for equity marketing at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. Ltd.
Trading house Mitsubishi Corp. lost 3.5% to 3,620 yen (Rs1,498). Nippon Oil Corp. declined 4.6% to 752 yen. Sony Corp. lost 1.4% to 4,900 yen, Canon Inc. was down 0.7% at 5,330 yen while Toyota Motor Corp. fell 1.6% to 5,020 yen. Shares of Oki Electric Industry Co. rose 3.8% to 218 yen on a report that it will sell its chip-making operations.
Hong Kong share prices closed down 0.13%.
The Hang Seng Index closed down 32.53 points at 24,249.51. Turnover was low at 60.21 billion Hong Kong dollars (Rs33,125 crore).
Telecom firm China Mobile Ltd fell for the fifth straight session amid competition worries after China announced telecoms restructuring. The company’s shares lost 1.57%, taking its cumulative losses over the past five sessions to more than 14%. Cnooc Ltd slumped more than 5%.
Australian shares closed down 1.2%. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed down 66.3 points at 5,648.1. The broader All Ordinaries slipped 63.9 points to 5,754.5.
BHP Billiton Ltd fell 3.4%. Rio Tinto Plc. also dropped 3.4%. The country’s fifth largest lender St. George Bank fell 3.2%. Australia’s largest airline Qantas Airways Ltd, however, soared 4.9%, aided by easing oil prices and its announcement of capacity cuts to cope with higher fuel prices.
Chinese share prices closed 2.48% higher, dealers said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, closed up 83.62 points at 3,459.03 on turnover of 68.7 billion yuan (Rs42,520 crore).