Asia Markets

Asia Pacific stocks mixed as China cuts loan prime rates; US crude plummets

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia Pacific were mixed on Monday.
  • China cut its one-year loan prime rate to 3.85% from 4.05%. The five-year loan prime rate was also reduced to 4.65% from 4.75%. The moves marked the second cut to the loan prime rates for 2020.
  • The U.S. crude futures contract for May plunged in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, dropping about 18%.

Asia Pacific stocks were mixed on Monday as China cut its benchmark lending rate.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 led losses among the region's major markets as it dropped 2.45% to close at 5,353.00.

Mainland Chinese stocks were higher on the day. The Shanghai composite gained 0.5% to around 2,852.55 while the Shenzhen composite edged 1.005% higher to about 1,767.86.

That came as China cut its one-year loan prime rate to 3.85% from 4.05%. The five-year loan prime rate was also reduced to 4.65% from 4.75%. The moves marked the second cut to the loan prime rates for 2020.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dipped 0.24%, as of its final hour of trading.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 1.15% to close at 19,669.12 while the Topix index shed 0.7% to finish its trading day at 1,432.41. Over in South Korea, the Kospi dipped 0.84% to close at 1,898.36. 

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index declined 0.66%.

Oil prices fell in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, as U.S. crude futures for May plunged 18.12% to $14.96 per barrel. The May contract is set to expire on Tuesday, according to Refinitiv. Meanwhile, international benchmark Brent crude futures also slipped 2.24% to $27.45 per barrel.

IHS Markit's Victor Shum told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday that there's "a lot of pressure" on crude markets, particularly in the physical oil space where the industry is "scrambling" daily to "accommodate a lot of oil flowing into a world that actually can't use it."

"We have a very skeptical audience in the oil markets even though OPEC+ members have agreed to make some historical cuts, but only starting in May," said Shum, who is vice president of energy consulting at IHS Markit.

Earlier in April, OPEC and its oil producing allies reached an agreement to cut production by 9.7 million barrels per day starting May 1.

"In the meantime, we still see oil supplies growing and traders struggle hard to find a place to store all those oil that the world doesn't need," Shum said.

Coronavirus developments likely also continued to be watched, with more than 2.3 million infected globally while at least 164,000 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University. Stocks globally had gotten a boost late last week after a report said patients with severe virus symptoms were quickly recovering after using remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 99.919 after crossing the 100 mark last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.78 per dollar after touching levels below 107.4 in the previous trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6354 following turbulent trading last week that saw it rising to levels above $0.64 and falling below $0.63.