Asia Stocks Cautious in Holiday-Thinned Trade
Trade in Asia's stock markets was relatively quiet on Monday with volume subdued because of holidays in Japan and China while disappointing U.S. economic growth dampened risk appetite.
Markets in Tokyo and Shanghai are closed for the Golden Week public holidays. Japan will resume trade on Tuesday while Shanghai will re-open Thursday.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 closed 10 points shy of Friday's one-month high of 5,135 while Seoul's Kospi crept down 0.2 percent to retreat further from last week's two-week high. In Hong Kong, the index was flat at the 22,530 mark.
Traders say that despite a holiday shortened week, quiet trading sessions are not necessarily in store since the U.S isn't observing any of these holidays.
Furthermore, the week ahead holds several key risk events, with a Fed meeting on Wednesday and U.S. nonfarm payrolls data due Friday. Meanwhile, expectations are high for a rate cut by the European Central Bank on Thursday when it holds a policy meeting.
Some analysts dismissed fears of a slowdown in the world's biggest economy after the weaker-than-expected U.S. first quarter gross domestic product on expectations that the Federal Reserve's ultra-lose monetary policy will continue to support the economy.
"This liquidity-driven and in some sense artificially supported market environment will not be with us forever, and we think it makes sense for investors occasionally to ask themselves whether systemically important central banks retain the means and the motivation to maintain such a powerful market put," wrote analysts at Barclays in a report Monday.
The U.S growth number pushed dollar-yen firmly below the 98 level. The currency pair ran into resistance at the 100-mark on Friday after the Bank of Japan said it may take longer than two years to meet its 2 percent inflation target.
S&P ASX 200 Up 0.5%
Financials lifted the broader market with financials with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank and Westpac rallying over 1 percent each.
However, resources declined with Kingsgate Resources leading losses by 15 percent after the gold miner predicted that its output for the fiscal year would hit the bottom range of its guidance.
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One expert warned that weakening commodity demand could be the final straw for the Australian economy.
"With all the problems in China, that means demand for the kind of commodities its been buying from Australia is just waiting to fall off a cliff in terms of volume and trade. And with Australia's inability to fund itself, and with the fact that personal debt levels are so high - I think the biggest accident in the world waiting to happen is sadly, Australia," said Paul Gambles, managing partner at advisory firm MBMG International.
Hong Kong Flat
The Hang Seng Index saw modest gains closing higher 0.1 percent as weakness in coal miners weighed on the broader market.
Shares of China Shenhua Energy fell 0.7 percent after reporting a 1 percent decline in quarterly profits. The news sparked a sector-wide decline with China Coal Energy slumping 6.2 percent while China's biggest oil and gas producer, PetroChina fell 0.7 percent, and Asia's largest oil refiner, Sinopec, fell 3 percent.
Kospi Closes at 1,940
Automakers lent support to Seoul's benchmark index with a 1.5 percent rally in shares of Hyundai Motor after the firm restarted weekend production after settling a wage dispute with its labor union.
Kia Motors jumped 3 percent despite reporting a 35 percent slide in first quarter net profit from a year earlier.
The South Korean won has weakened nearly 2 percent against the yen since hitting a four-and-a-half-year high on Friday. On Sunday, the government warned that the yen's recent decline would hinder any increase in Seoul's exports for April.