Asia Markets

Asia markets decline across the board, with Japan's Nikkei falling nearly 2%

Key Points
  • Asia markets fell sharply on Wednesday after U.S. stocks declined overnight and the S&P 500 posted its first three-day losing streak since August
  • The dollar declined against a basket of rivals as investors track developments in Washington D.C., where U.S. lawmakers are attempting to pass a tax reform bill
  • Australia's economy grew by 0.6 percent in the third-quarter, narrowly missing market expectations
  • The Reserve Bank of India is set to announce its monetary policy decision at 5 p.m. HK/SIN

Asia markets fell sharply almost across the board on Wednesday as the main index in Japan lost nearly 2 percent.

The session in Asia followed overnight declines in U.S. stocks, where the S&P 500 posted its first three-day losing streak since August.

Japan's dropped 445.34 points, or 1.97 percent, to 22,177.04. The Topix index declined 25.55 points, or 1.43 percent, to 1,765.42. Reuters reported that the Nikkei had its biggest percentage drop since late march.

Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi slipped 35.75 points, or 1.42 percent, to 2,474.37.

Australia's ASX 200 closed down 26.11 points, or 0.44 percent, at 5,945.7 as the materials and energy sectors fell 1.66 percent and 1.57 percent, respectively.

Major miners closed lower: Shares of Rio Tinto fell 2.47 percent, Fortescue Metal was down 1.29 percent and BHP lost 1.98 percent. Other miners also fell, with South32 shares sliding 4.14 percent.

Also of note for traders: Copper futures in Shanghai fell 3.1 percent in afternoon trade, tracking declines in London prices — in the early hours of the Asian trading day, copper prices in London were down some 4.31 percent. Some traders attributed the decline to profit taking in the market.

In Hong Kong, the fell 620.74 points, or 2.15 percent, to 28,222.06. Chinese mainland markets reversed some of their losses to close mixed. The composite fell 9.54 points, or 0.29 percent, to 3,294.12 and the Shenzhen composite advanced 12.66 points, or 0.67 percent, to 1,879.65.

"Risk appetite continued to wane into mid-week, with major Wall Street indices shedding more gains," analysts at Singapore's OCBC Bank wrote in a morning note. "For now ... market-watchers appear to remain cautious in view of further uncertainties over the outcome of the Brexit talks and Friday's potential partial U.S. government shutdown should negotiations fail."

Shares of Samsung Heavy Industries plunged and finish a whopping 28.89 percent lower. The company had said it was planning a 1.5 trillion Korean won ($1.38 billion) rights offering by May 2018, according to Reuters. The rights issue was aimed at improving the company's financial structure and to allocate new shares to existing shareholders, the wire service reported.

Reuters also reported that the company said in a regulatory filing that it expected an operating loss of 240 billion won ($220 million) next year, from a loss of 490 billion this year.

In the currency market, the dollar traded at 93.273 against a basket of other currencies as of 3:26 p.m. HK/SIN. The greenback climbed from levels below 92.700 reached late last week, but it was off from an overnight high of 93.488.

Some attributed the dollar's moves to developments in the U.S. which could see President Donald Trump's administration potentially sealing its first major legislative win.

Markets are closely tracking the progress made by U.S. lawmakers to pass a bill that will overhaul the American tax system. Over the weekend, the Senate narrowly passed its version of the plan.

Now House and Senate lawmakers have to hash out differences and agree on a final bill to send to Trump.

Among other currency majors, the Japanese yen traded at 112.04 while the euro was at $1.1833. The Australian dollar was at $0.7581 at 3:27 p.m. HK/SIN, slipping from an earlier high of $0.7616 after the county's third-quarter gross domestic product data narrowly missed forecasts.

Oil prices declined on Wednesday in Asia trade, despite a higher finish overnight as traders expected a draw down in U.S. crude inventories.

Reuters reported that analysts expect data from the U.S. government's Energy Information Administration to show crude stocks fell 3.4 million barrels last week.

U.S. crude was down 0.31 percent at $57.44, and global benchmark Brent fell 0.22 percent to $62.72 a barrel as of 3:28 p.m. HK/SIN.

Elsewhere, Australia's economy grew 0.6 percent in seasonally adjusted terms for the September quarter, following a 0.9 percent increase in the April-June period, according to the country's Bureau of Statistics.

That number, Reuters said, narrowly missed market predictions for 0.7 percent growth in the quarter.

On Tuesday, the Reserve Bank of Australia kept its cash rate unchanged at a record low of 1.5 percent. In its policy statement, the central bank said it expected the economy to grow on average around 3 percent over the next few years, with an improved outlook for non-mining business investment and increased public infrastructure investment.

Also on the docket: The Reserve Bank of India is set to announce its policy decision at 5 p.m. HK/SIN.

DBS analysts said in a morning note that an "on-hold decision is largely baked in." Instead, what will be a focus for market watchers will be the central bank's policy guidance "divided between a neutral or a hawkish bias," the analysts wrote.

Elsewhere, bitcoin broke above the $12,000 for the first time Wednesday morning as the cryptocurrency continued its march higher.