Asia markets mostly lower; Nikkei tumbles 2.4% as yen strengthens

Asia markets ended mostly lower on Tuesday, with Japanese shares losing ground on the back of a stronger yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 finished down 390.45 points, or 2.42 percent, at 15,732.82. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi fell 16.23 points, or 0.82 percent, to 1,962.74.

Down Under, the ASX 200 fell 70.93 points, or 1.42 percent, to 4,924.38, with the country's so-called Big Four banks - ANZ, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac and NAB - selling off between 1.01 and 2.29 percent.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index closed down 321.92 points, or 1.57 percent, at 20,177.

Mainland Chinese markets advanced, with the Shanghai composite reversing earlier losses to close up 43.85 points, or 1.46 percent, at 3,053.38 and the Shenzhen composite adding 49.59 points, or 2.6 percent, to 1,951.10.

India's Sensex and Nifty 50 indexes were down 1.34 and 1.68 percent respectively as of 4:24 p.m. HK/SIN time, following the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) monetary policy decision.

The Indian central bank cut its repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.5 percent on Tuesday, largely in line with market expectations. In an unexpected move, however, the bank raised the reverse repo by 25 basis points to 6 percent.

In the currency market, the dollar index, which measures the U.S. dollar against a basket of currencies, remained at the 94 level, trading at 94.69 as of 4:26 p.m. HK/SIN time.

But the Japanese yen fell below the 111 level against the dollar, with the dollar/yen pair at 110.44 late afternoon local time, its lowest since October 2014. That compares with levels over 112 last week.

Major Japanese exporters were lower, with Toyota finishing down 3.31 percent, Nissan down 3.12 percent and Honda losing 2.41 percent. A stronger yen is a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into local currency.

But it isn't clear how much further the yen might strengthen.

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Kathy Lien, managing director of FX strategy at BK Asset Management, said in a note overnight that the dollar/yen pair is nearing "intervention territory."

"With the high level of long yen-short dollar positions, this is prime time for the Bank of Japan to intervene," she said. "However Japanese policymakers have not confirmed any intervention thus far even though dollar/yen experienced unusual spikes every time it dipped below 111 over the past two months."

She added that Japan's Ministry of Finance, which makes the call on intervention, could be waiting for fiscal stimulus from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

People walk past a board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company in Tokyo.
Toru Yamanaka | AFP | Getty Images
People walk past a board flashing the Nikkei key index of the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) in front of a securities company in Tokyo.

The Australian dollar advanced from levels near $0.7575 to $0.7586 Tuesday afternoon local time, after the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) kept its cash rate steady at 2 percent; the move that was widely expected. Although the RBA expressed concern about the Australian dollar's recent appreciation, likely in an effort to "jawbone" the currency lower, it rose instead.

IG analysts reckoned the market was probably expecting a stronger jawbone or perhaps even a rate cut.

As of 4:31 p.m. HK/SIN time, however, the Aussie/dollar pair fell some 0.54 percent to $0.7561.

In Australia's stock market, shares of Nine Entertainment closed down 23.68 percent after the company provided a fiscal third-quarter trading update indicating Television revenue was down 11 percent on-year. The company's fiscal full year results will be released on Aug. 25, 2016.

In Asian hours, U.S. crude futures were down 0.81 percent at $35.41 a barrel as of 4:34 p.m. HK/SIN time after dropping nearly 3 percent overnight. Global benchmark Brent slid 0.4 percent to $37.54, after dropping 2.5 percent overnight as concerns remain over the worldwide supply glut.

Energy plays were mostly lower, with Santos losing 5.33 percent, Woodside Petroleum closing down 4.16 percent and Inpex finishing down 4.18 percent. Chinese mainland oil plays ended mixed, with Sinopec tacking on 0.81 percent and China Petroleum down 0.2 percent.

Recent comments from Saudi Arabia cast doubts about the ability of world oil producers to agree to an output freeze at their meeting in Qatar later this month.

Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG, said in a morning note that "oil is clearly repricing on the idea that 'no deal' will be inked, showing that OPEC is just a cartel by name and not by action."

Major U.S. indexes closed down overnight, with the Dow Jones industrial average down 0.31 percent, the S&P 500 lower by 0.32 percent and the Nasdaq composite off by 0.46 percent.

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