Asia markets mixed, energy names end down ahead of OPEC decision

Asia markets were mixed on Wednesday, with energy stocks under pressure following overnight declines in oil prices and as traders waited to see if the world's top oil producers would reach an agreement to cut production levels.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed flat at 18,308.48, while in South Korea, the Kospi gained 5.09 points, or 0.26 percent, to 1,983.48.

Australia's ASX 200 fell 16.99 points, or 0.31 percent, to 5,440.50, with miners among the top losers on the index as the materials sector fell 2.83 percent. The energy sector was down 1.94 percent, following overnight losses in oil prices.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index gained 0.31 percent. Chinese mainland markets closed lower, with the Shanghai composite finishing down 32.33 points, or 0.98 percent, to 3,250.58, while the Shenzhen composite fell 3.45 points, or 0.16 percent, to 2,106.90.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
NIKKEI
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HSI
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ASX 200
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SHANGHAI
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KOSPI
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CNBC 100
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Oil prices tumbled nearly 4 percent on Tuesday during U.S. hours, amid fresh uncertainties over an OPEC deal on production levels, Ministers from the 14-nation cartel are slated to meet in Vienna later Wednesday to announce a decision on output curbs proposed in September.

During Asian hours on Wednesday, U.S. crude futures rebounded 1.55 percent at $45.93. Global benchmark Brent gained 1.64 percent to $47.14 as of 3:06 a.m. HK/SIN. Prices recovered on Wednesday in Asia after U.S. industry group, the American Petroleum Institute, reported a drop in crude oil inventories last week of 720,000 barrels.

Energy plays across the region were lower, as traders remained cautious over the upcoming OPEC decision; Santos shares in Australia dropped 2.96 percent, Oil Search was down 2.57 percent and Woodside Petroleum fell 2.37 percent. In Japan, Fuji Oil finished up 0.42 percent after reversing early losses of nearly 0.30 percent, while Japan Petroleum was down 3.28 percent and South Korea's S-Oil slipped 1.87 percent. Hong Kong-listed shares of Chinese oil plays were mostly lower.

Analysts warned OPEC's failure to reach a deal for substantial production cuts could see oil prices decline further.

"The oil market is unlikely to be impressed by any token, face saving agreement from OPEC largely based on production freezes," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note.

Reuters, citing a source, reported documents prepared for the meeting proposed OPEC cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day from October levels at 33.82 million barrels a day, which was more than the 1 million barrel per day the group discussed at a meeting in September.

Meanwhile, the oil minister of the United Arab Emirates, Suhail al Mazroui told CNBC on Tuesday the obstacle standing in OPEC's way to cut a deal was that not all member states appeared ready to participate in production cuts.

Others believed even if OPEC were to reach a deal on Wednesday, ensuring compliance from every member to reduce output could be an issue.

"The weight of any cuts will almost certainly fall on the shoulders of both Saudi (Arabia) and the other Gulf Cooperation Council countries," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Spooner added the "substantial increase in OPEC production over recent months will leave the market in a surplus position for some time unless it can agree on significant and sustainable production cuts."

Joe Klamar | AFP | Getty Images

In the broader currency market, the dollar reacted modestly against a basket of currencies, despite an upward revision of third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) in the U.S and November consumer confidence coming in above expectations.

The second read on third-quarter GDP came in at an annualized rate of 3.2 percent, above a previous reading of 2.9 percent, while the consumer confidence index was at 107.1.

Analysts said Tuesday's economic data stateside further make the case for the U.S. Federal Reserve to hike interest rates at its upcoming December policy meeting. Higher rates also usually lead to a stronger dollar.

The dollar index climbed in the afternoon session in Asia on Wednesday to trade at 101.11, up from an earlier low of 100.84. The index was still down from levels near 102.00 reached in the previous week.

Kathy Lien, managing director of foreign exchange strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note that while the dollar uptrend was still intact, "the mighty buck (was) having a difficult time extending its gains beyond last week's highs."

The Chinese yuan was stronger against the dollar, trading at 6.8858, climbing from its previous close at 6.8933. The Korean won traded at 1,167.88 against the greenback, up from levels near 1,172 in the previous session.

The yen, however, still weakened against the greenback to reach a session high of 112.96, falling from Tuesday's levels near 111.98.

In company news, Samsung shares rose 3.7 percent to 1,739,000 won to a record high following its Tuesday announcement that it planned to return 50 percent of its free cash flow to shareholders in 2016 and 2017. Reuters reported the Korean electronics giant added $9 billion to its market value on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the Dow Jones industrial average rose 23.70 points, or 0.12 percent, to close at 19,121.60, while the S&P 500 gained 2.94 points, or 0.13 percent, to end at 2,204.66. The Nasdaq advanced 11.11 points, or 0.21 percent, to close at 5,379.

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