Asia Markets

Nikkei leads declines in Asia on global growth, Iraq fears


Asian stocks were lower on Thursday amid concerns about global growth and escalating violence in Iraq.

Uncertainty broke Wall Street's record streak overnight, with the Dow Jones stock index losing more than 100 points. Analysts cited many factors for the pullback, including the World Bank lowering global growth forecasts and fears of a sooner-than-expected U.S. rate hike.

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Nervousness also stemmed from developments in Iraq as Al Qaeda-linked groups took control of the northern city of Tikrit on Wednesday, threatening the the Kirkuk-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

"Oil exports out of Iraq have been mostly from the south of the country. The pipeline that runs from Kirkuk has been shut since March so even through the rebels have taken control of that area, there's no impact on the pipeline. The impact is that the pipeline probably won't be re-opened again, so that's a longer-term concern," said John Kingston, global director of news at Platts.

Nikkei down 0.7%

Japanese shares resumed their decline, falling to a more than one-week low, despite showing April machinery orders fell 9.1 percent on month, which was better than forecasts for a 11.9 percent drop.

"The inevitable plunge in machinery orders in April does not alter our view that investment spending will continue to recover. Our forecasts for the output gap still point to rising capital expenditure," said analysts at Capital Economics in a report.

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Mitsubishi Heavy Industries rose 1.2 percent after saying that it is in talks with Siemens over a joint bid for Alstom's energy assets.

Japan Tobacco added 2 percent after announcing its purchase of British e-cigarette maker E-Lites from its parent, Zandera, on Wednesday in a deal that will be funded with cash and debt.

China shares lower

The mainland's benchmark Shanghai Composite dipped 0.1 percent despite news of another "mini-stimulus." On Wednesday, premier Li Keqiang said the government should develop a transportation network in order to form an "economic belt" along the Yangtze river.

That saw a rally in port groups; Ningbo Port gained 2.6 percent while Shanghai International Port tacked on 1 percent.

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Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 0.3 percent, extending its losses into a second session.

ASX 0.4% lower

Australia's benchmark index fell to a one-week low while the Australian dollar fell off a two-month high of $0.9413 after May employment data showed a decline of 4,800 jobs, missing expectations for a gain of 10,000.

Fortescue Metals slumped 4.6 percent as iron ore prices continued to trade at its lowest levels since 2012 and after Morgan Stanley cut its rating on the stock to underweight.

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Ramsay Healthcare jumped 3.7 percent after the hospital operator said it will buy a majority stake in French peer Generale de Sante.

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand raised its official interest rate by 25 basis points to 3.25 percent early on Thursday, sending the to a three-week high.

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Kospi dips 0.1%

South Korean shares retreated after ending at their highest level since May 22 on Wednesday. Markets were little changed after the Bank of Korea left its base rate unchanged at 2.5 percent, as widely expected.

Declines in blue-chip stocks weighed on the benchmark Kospi. LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics closed down 0.6 percent each.

Investors also digested data that showed import prices fell for the 21st straight month in May while export prices eased an annual 8 percent.

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Sensex up 0.4%

India's benchmark index rose on optimism ahead of May consumer prices and industrial production data, due for release at 8pm SIN/HK. The reports are expected to a show a pick-up from the previous month as new Prime Minister Modi promises to fight high inflation.