Asian Stocks End Mostly Lower, Taiwan Gains
Asian markets closed mostly lower Tuesday, having drifted in and out of negative territory during volatile trading. Japan closed flat, but Chinese stocks ended 2.3 percent in the red. Gold and platinum hovered at or near record highs.
Along with booming metals prices, oil prices are near an all time peak and agricultural commodities are also trading at record highs as supply shortages and investment flows pump up prices.
The concerns that the U.S. economy is at or entering a recession are creating a cycle: a plunging dollar sparks a rally in commodity prices, which in turn hit stocks further as a weakening global economy may now also have to deal with inflationary pressures.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average ended flat, with banks such as Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group falling on worries about the economic outlook, offsetting gains in resource-related shares amid rising commodity prices. Consumer electronics maker Pioneer jumped more than 11 percent on news of restructuring of its loss-making TV operations.
South Korea's KOSPI finished a touch higher in a recovery led by technology and shipping firms, such as LG Electronics, while the financial sector fell amid persisting worries over the global credit squeeze.
Australian shares closed 0.5 percent lower, falling for the fourth straight session, as persistent worries about troubled credit markets continued to dent investor sentiment. But the market came off early lows as recently battered banking firms, such as Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, recovered on hopes that domestic interest rates could stay put until May. While the Australian central bank raised interest rates to a 12-year high of 7.25 percent, as widely expected, comments from Governor Glenn Stevens suggested that the central bank would not raise rates again soon.
Hong Kong stocks closed 2 percent lower, erasing earlier gains, as caution set in ahead of more earnings results from companies such as Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing and Sun Hung Kai Properties this week. Chinese lenders and insurers fell, tracking sliding financial shares traded in the mainland, on concerns that Ping An Insurance's shareholders may approve its huge stock issue plan on Wednesday. But global bank HSBC Holdings climbed after it posted forecast-beating results.
Singapore's Straits Times Index was 0.2 percent lower. But shares of Neptune Orient Lines rose as much as 6.6 percent after it said it carried 17 percent more containers in the six weeks to Feb 8, compared with the same period a year ago.
Chinese stocks were lower with the Shanghai Composite Index dragged down 2.3 percent by financial shares, because of concern that Wednesday's meeting of Ping An Insurance's shareholders might pass its huge stock issue plan.