Asia Markets

Asia markets drop as energy stocks sell off after Doha meeting

Asian markets lower; oil in focus after Doha let-down

Asia markets dropped Monday, as oil tumbled after top oil producers failed to reach an agreement to freeze production and Japan shares took a hit from large earthquakes last week.

Japan's led the sell-off in Asian markets, with the benchmark index closing down 572.08 points, or 3.4 percent, at 16,275.95.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi fell 5.61 points, or 0.28 percent, to 2,009.10. In Australia, the ASX 200 closed down 20.43 points, or 0.4 percent, at 5,137.05. In Hong Kong, the finished down 154.97 points, or 0.73 percent, at 21,161.50.

Chinese markets also lagged, with the closing down 44.04 points, or 1.43 percent, at 3,034.06, and the Shenzhen composite finishing down 26.17 points, or 1.32 percent, at 1,952.40.

Oil prices tumbled more than 5 percent in early Asian hours, before paring some of the losses later in the day. As of 4:16 p.m. HK/SIN time, U.S. crude futures were down 4.71 percent at $38.46 a barrel, while global benchmark Brent fell 4.52 percent to $41.15.

The commodity sold off after the meeting between the world's largest oil producing countries in Doha failed to produce a deal to freeze output which was aimed at boosting sagging crude prices.

Oil prices retraced some of the losses after reports said oil and gas workers in Kuwait went on strike starting Sunday.

Reuters reported the strike was to protest the government's plan to cut some of the workers' benefits and wages, and led to a reduction in Kuwait's crude oil output and refining production.

Energy stocks in Asia closed mostly lower, with Santos selling off 6.95 percent, Oil Search off 4.31 percent and Inpex down 3.05 percent.

Kuwaiti Minister of Finance and Minister of Oil Anas al-Saleh arrives for the oil producers' meeting in Doha, Qatar, on April 17, 2016. The world's largest oil producing countries failed to agree on a deal to freeze output at January levels, which sent oil prices tumbling over 5 percent.
Karim Jaafar | AFP | Getty Images

In Japan, a combination of a stronger yen and a powerful second earthquake striking the southern island of Kyushu on Saturday sent stocks lower, with risk sentiment taking a hit.

Reuters reported the 7.3 magnitude earthquake caused widespread damage, with reports of fires, power outages, collapsed bridges and gaping holes in the earth.

Manufacturers including Honda, Toyota, Renesas Electronics and Sony halted production after the tremors, according to Reuters.

The yen saw fresh strength against the dollar, breaking the 108 level Monday morning; late last week, the yen traded at the 109 level against the dollar. As of 4:22 p.m. HK/SIN time, the dollar/yen pair was at 108.31.

Japanese exporters sold off sharply, with shares of auto players Toyota, Nissan and Honda closing down between 2.83 and 4.76 percent. Shares of Sony were down 6.78 percent, while Renesas tumbled 11.76 percent.

A stronger yen is usually a negative for exporters as it affects their overseas profit when converted to local currency.

BRICS: A roller-coaster ride ahead?

Elsewhere, the Australian dollar retreated to $0.7680 in the evening local time, after climbing during the previous session to $0.7719 on the back of slightly improved Chinese economic data released Friday. China is a key export market for Australia and the Aussie tends to move in tandem to the mainland economy.

But the drop in oil prices dented interest in the Aussie dollar.

"The collapse of the oil production freeze summit has caused a wave of selling across the commodity block currencies," Stephen Innes, senior foreign exchange trader at OANDA, said in a note Monday.

Australian resources producers were mixed, with shares of Fortescue advancing 2.3 percent, while Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton were off 1.56 and 3.01 percent, respectively. Chinese mainland metal plays were also mostly lower, with shares of Baoshan Steel dropping 0.52 percent, while Yunnan Copper sold off 2.84 percent.

Metal commodities on the London Metal Exchange were mixed as of 4:25 p.m. HK/SIN time, with three-month copper off 0.61 percent, while three-month aluminium fell 0.32 percent. Three-month zinc advanced 0.53 percent.

Elsewhere, shares of Australian real estate business McGrath plunged 30.77 percent, after the company issued a profit warning. In an announcement on the ASX, the company said it expects to generate fiscal-2016 revenue of A$136 million to A$140 million, below levels forecast in its listing prospectus late last year.

The Chinese yuan was weaker against the dollar, with the pair trading at 6.4793 in late afternoon local time. Before market open, the People's Bank of China set the yuan mid-point at 6.4787. China's central bank lets the yuan spot rate rise or fall a maximum of 2 percent against the dollar relative to the official fixing rate.

Data showed China's home prices in March gained, with Reuters reporting average new home prices in 70 major cities rose 4.9 percent last month on-year, extending February's 3.6 percent rise. Reuters said home prices in Shenzhen surged 61.6 percent on-year, while Shanghai prices gained 25 percent.

Mainland property stocks were mostly lower, with Poly Real Estate losing 2.11 percent.

U.S. stocks closed lower Friday, with the down 0.16 percent, the S&P 500 off by 0.1 percent and the composite lower by 0.16 percent.

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