Asia closes lower, ASX sheds 2% and Shanghai up 9% in 2015

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Asian markets had an uninspired finish on the final trading day of 2015, as investors kept an eye on oil prices for further clues going into 2016, after a turbulent year for stocks.

The Australian market, which closed early, shed over 2 percent for the year as lower commodity prices hit many stocks on the main index.

In China, markets were mostly down as both the Shanghai and the Shenzhen Composite ended in the red.

Despite the negative finish on Thursday, the Shenzhen Composite remained the region's best performer with year-to-date gains of 63.2 percent. The index, relatively less known than the Shanghai Composite, boasts smaller companies covering new-economy sectors such as healthcare, Internet and technology, compared to Shanghai's state-owned giants.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite, meanwhile, closed 9.4 percent higher on the year.

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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Overnight, oil prices fell over 3 percent. During Asian trade, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures saw some uptick, trading 0.14 percent higher at $36.65 a barrel. The global benchmark Brent futures was up slightly at $36.63 a barrel.

Major U.S. indexes closed in the red, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 117.11 points, or 0.66 percent, at 17,604. The S&P 500 finished 0.72 percent lower at 2,063 while the Nasdaq Composite index shed 0.82 percent to close at 5,066.

The Japanese and South Korean markets remain closed today. On Wednesday, the Nikkei 225 rounded off a 9.3 percent gain for 2015.

The Hong Kong Hang Seng closed early on Thursday, ending the day narrowly higher and down on the year by 7.2 percent.

The stock market in Singapore will also shut earlier than usual on Thursday.

Australia market sheds 2 percent for the year

The ASX 200 finished the final trading day of the year in the red, down 24 points, or 0.45 percent, at 5,295. For the whole year, the index shed 2.13 percent.

"In real terms, the performance of the index has been incredibly disappointing, only gaining 1.5% over the past five years for a compound annual growth rate of only 0.3%.," said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at spreadbetter IG, adding, "Of course, when one factors in dividend reinvestments the total return of the index has been somewhat better."

Shares of major Australian banks closed down between 0.05 and 0.43 percent.

Resources producers were also mostly down with Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, two of the biggest miners in the country, closed 0.16 and 1.27 percent lower, respectively. For the whole year, Rio Tinto shares were down 23 percent while BHP shares fell 49 percent.

On Wednesday, iron ore futures were up as much as 4 percent, with the overnight spot price rising to a four-week high.

Iron ore for immediate delivery to China's Tianjin port was up at $42.50 a tonne as iron ore producers closed mixed.

Energy plays also ended in negative territory on the back of the decline in oil prices.

The Australian dollar traded up at 0.7296 against the U.S. dollar at market close.

China closes down in the red

Chinese markets finished in mostly negative territory with the main Shanghai Composite index closing down 0.9 percent on the day at 3,540. The Shenzhen Composite was down 1.8 percent on the day.

The yuan traded near flat at 6.492 against the dollar.

Chinese energy plays closed lower with Hong Kong-listed shares of CNOOC, PetroChina, and Sinopec Corp down between 0.64 and 1.6.

Elsewhere, China Animal Healthcare, which is partly owned by Eli Lilly and Co, said it was looking for five years-worth of financial documents that were lost. A truck carrying the documents was stolen, according to reports. Its shares were not trading for the day.

The chairman and chief executive of China Telecom, the country's third-largest mobile operator, resigned yesterday. Prior to his resignation, Chang Xiaobing was detained by China's anti-graft watchdog.

Shares of China Telecom finished down 0.27 percent.

The Hong Kong stock exchange operator also said on Thursday it will delist China Metal Recycling Holdings, a recycler of scrap metal, from the market, following alleged accounting fraud. Earlier in February, the protectorate's financial regulator forced the company into provisional liquidation, according to Reuters.

— Nyshka Chandran and Katy Barnato contributed to this report.

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