Asia Markets

Asia markets close mostly lower after Senate delays health-care vote, Draghi hints at policy shift

Key Points
  • European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's comments about the central bank potentially adjusting policy led to the euro hitting a one-year high.
  • Toshiba shares closed lower after the company's annual meeting. The company had failed to sign a deal over the sale of its memory business as previously promised.

Asian indexes closed mostly lower on Wednesday after a softer lead from Wall Street, with the vote on a bill to replace Obamacare in the U.S. delayed.

The declined 0.47 percent, or 94.68 points, to close at 20,130.41, and South Korea's Kospi was off by 0.39 percent, or 9.39 points, to end at 2,382.56.

Markets in greater China trended lower. Hong Kong's was down by 0.54 percent at 3:03 p.m. HK/SIN. The fell 0.54 percent, or 17.2936 points, to close at 3,173.9033 and the Shenzhen Composite declined 0.799 percent, or 15.1641 points, to end at 1,883.3713.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 bucked the trend to close higher by 0.73 percent, or 41.506 points, at 5,755.7, led by gains in its materials, energy and financials sub-indexes.

Markets in Indonesia are closed until the end of the week.

Markets also digested European Central Bank President Mario Draghi's comments on Tuesday that the central bank could potentially "adjust" its policy in response to "improving economic conditions."

"The current asset buying program runs until the end of the year, so traders now think the ECB's September may include an announcement to taper," said ThinkMarkets Senior Market Analyst Matt Simpson in a Wednesday note.

The euro extended gains to hit a one-year high after trading at ten-month highs overnight. The common currency traded at $1.1363 at 2:48 p.m. HK/SIN.

Other European currencies also edged higher. The Danish krone traded at 6.5441 to the dollar at 12:02 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with the 6.6 handle seen for most of June. The Swiss franc traded at 0.9595 to the dollar, compared with levels around the 0.97 handle seen earlier.

Stateside, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that the health-care vote would be delayed until after July 4. The controversial new health-care bill could also result in 23 million more uninsured Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The scuttled vote likely signaled the market that U.S. President Donald Trump's efforts to push through his agenda were struggling, suggesting a hard slog for market-positive elements, such as infrastructure spending.

Trump trade 'is dead' but equity markets are yet to notice
Trump trade 'is dead' but equity markets are yet to notice

In company news, Toshiba held its annual meeting on Wednesday. Toshiba had promised to sign a deal for the sale of its memory chip unit by the meeting, but said in a statement released earlier in the day that the "negotiation is still continuing." Toshiba had selected a consortium led by the Innovation Network Corporation of Japan as its preferred bidder. Toshiba shares fell 1.84 percent to close at 287.6 yen a stock.

Meanwhile, Western Digital and KKR & Co. submitted a fresh offer for Toshiba's memory unit. The chief of Toshiba's memory chip business said Western Digital's offer had anti-monopoly issues, Reuters reported. Western Digital jointly operates Toshiba's main chip plant and had sought to block the sale of the latter's chip business.

Takata shares tumbled to close down 68.18 percent after the Tokyo Stock Exchange removed daily price limits for the company's shares. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this week.

Several small-cap stocks in Hong Kong extended losses, with some falling more than 90 percent in the previous session. The broader Hong Kong Exchange Growth Enterprise Market (GEM) Index, which the stocks traded on, was down by 1.59 percent at 2:53 p.m. HK/SIN.

A significant number of companies that plunged on Tuesday, including GreaterChina Professional Services and China Jicheng, had appeared in a list of Hong Kong-listed stocks not to own published in May by an activist investor.

Oil prices gave up some gains after rising almost 2 percent overnight. Brent crude slipped 0.24 percent to trade at $46.54 a barrel and U.S. crude traded lower by 0.43 percent at $44.05.

In currencies, the dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of rival currencies, slid to trade at 96.284, below the 97 handle seen for the last two weeks.

The greenback also ceded ground against the yen after hitting a five-week high earlier in the session. The dollar/yen traded at 112.32 at 2:50 p.m. HK/SIN.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Wall Street following the Senate's decision to postpone voting on a new health-care bill. Technology stocks also fared poorly, with Alphabet falling by more than 2 percent. The EU fined Alphabet unit Google a record $2.7 billion, as regulators ruled the company violated antitrust rules.