Asian markets close mixed, economic data eyed

Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP | Getty Images

Asian stocks lost much of their gains from the morning session to close mixed on Monday, as investors eye a host of economic data due this week.

Last week, nonfarm payrolls data showed the U.S. economy created 211,000 jobs for November, beating market expectations, which sent Wall Street soaring. It is likely to have been the final sign for the Federal Reserve that conditions are right for a hike in interest rates in December.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital, said in a note that despite the solid jobs number for November, the imminent Fed rate hike is expected to be modest.

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"The hike when it comes will be a sign of how the U.S. has recovered since the GFC [global financial crisis]; and that subsequent rate hikes will likely be gradual and tied to progress in lifting inflation back towards the Fed's target."

Oil prices will remain in focus after U.S. crude futures once again dipped below the $40-mark. In Asian trade, the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures traded at 46 cents or 1.15 percent lower at $39.51. The internationally traded Brent was down 20 cents or 0.47 percent at $42.80.

Last Friday in Vienna, OPEC left its production levels unchanged for the third year in a row despite a global supply glut.

U.S. markets closed last Friday 2 percent higher. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 370 points or 2.12 percent at 17,848. The S&P 500 was up 42 points or 2 percent at 2,092 and the Nasdaq was up 105 points or 2 percent at 5,142.

Chinese market closes higher

Chinese markets traded higher, ahead of a deluge of economic data due this week including trade data, consumer and producer price indexes, industrial production and retail sales.

The Shanghai Composite index closed up 12 points or 0.34 percent at 3,536. The smaller Shenzhen Composite ended 28 points or 1.2 percent higher at 2,261. Away from the mainland, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index traded up 28 points or 0.12 percent at 22,263.

Finance stocks weighed, with brokerages closing lower between 0.8 and 2.3 percent. Banking stocks also finished in the red. The property sub-index on the Shanghai Composite saw the biggest losses as it closed 30 points or 0.45 percent lower at 6,555.

Shares in Citic Resources were down 3.53 percent after the company issued a profit warning, saying it expected a substantial net loss in 2015 due to lower oil prices and decline in sales of commodity-related assets.

Its sister company Citic Securities reported on Sunday that it was not able to contact two of its top executives. Reuters reported Citic said it could not reach its most senior investment bankers Jun Chen and Jianlin Yan. Business site Caixin had reported on Friday the bankers were detained, though it was not clear why. Shares in Citic Securities closed down 1.81 percent.

In Hong Kong, Bank of Jinzhou made its IPO trading debut, becoming the second Chinese bank to do so in as many weeks. It stock traded at HK$4.61 ($0.61) during the afternoon session.

Nikkei closes in the green, Kospi back in the red

The Japanese market closed in positive territory as investors await the latest update of third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) data, the broadest measure of economic health, and machinery orders figures.

Many investors remain unconvinced that Japan is out of the woods yet as recent economic data showed the economy has slipped into a technical recession while domestic consumption has fallen.

Reuters reported that Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said on Monday there was no need for further stimulus of implementing negative deposit rates - following in the footsteps of the European Central Bank (ECB) - to spur borrowing. He said the central bank's asset purchases program has already kept borrowing costs low.

The Nikkei 225 was up 194 points or 1 percent at 19,698 while the Topix closed up 11 points or 0.71 percent higher at 1,585.

The yen traded lower against the dollar at 123.28.

Export stocks saw a boost from the slightly weaker yen, with shares in the like of Toyota, Sony, Sharp, and Canon closing up between 0.16 and 1.23 percent.

Takata shares closed down 5.5 percent after Japan's transport ministry last Friday ordered car-makers to phase out the use of Takata air bag inflators by mid-2018. Large numbers of vehicles were recalled in the U.S. and elsewhere due to faulty Takata-made airbags that resulted in passenger injuries and some deaths.

The Seoul Kospi lost its morning gains and finished 11 points or 0.54 percent lower at 1,964.

Blue chip stocks closed in the red, with Samsung Electronics down 0.55 percent, steel manufacturer Posco down 0.59 percent, and Kepco seeing losses of 0.94 percent. Shares in SK Hynix also fell 1.6 percent.

ASX closes flat, energy sectors down near 5 percent

The Australian market saw a modest increase after shedding three weeks' worth of gains last Friday. The main ASX 200 index closed 4 points or 0.09 percent higher at 5,156.

Biggest loser in today's trade was the energy sector, seeing a decline of near 4.6 percent on the back of falling oil prices. Oil producers Santos, Woodside Petroleum, and Oil Search racked up losses of 9.93, 3.68, and 5.41 percent respectively.

Resources producers also finished mixed. Shares in Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, Australia's two biggest miners, traded mixed. Rio Tinto was down 0.18 percent while BHP Billiton was up 0.33 percent.

Some iron ore producers felt the effects of prices dropping to a decade low of $39.40 a tonne. After opening in the green, shares in Fortescue closed down 1.72 percent while BC Iron was down 6.82 percent. Atlas Iron and Mount Gibson pared gains from the morning session to close flat.

Shares in gold producers were boosted after prices soared last week to the $1,082-mark after the nonfarm payroll data reaffirmed the market's belief for a December rate hike. In Asian trade, spot gold traded $1,084 an ounce.

Evan Lucas, market strategist at spreadbetter IG, said, "Gold has had an amazing week, up 2.65 percent. What's even more amazing was the snap back on Friday after the NFP surging 2.25 percent, which was in conjunction with the USD surge. It was a complete market miss-match; the logical conclusion is short-covering of the heavily short gold paper trade. The positioning in the US bond market and USD suggest this move in Australia won't last long."

Shares in Newcrest was up 3 percent, Evolution Mining up 5 percent, and Alacer Gold seeing an uptick of 1.5 percent.

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