Asia Markets

Asia stocks little changed as oil prices continue to fall; HSBC earnings widely miss expectations

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia were little changed on Tuesday.
  • On the earnings front, HSBC on Tuesday posted a 48% year-over-year plunge in pre-tax profit for the first quarter of 2020,
  • Oil prices fell in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery dropped 16.59% to $10.66 per barrel. International benchmark Brent crude futures also declined 5% to $18.99 per barrel.

Stocks in Asia were little changed on Tuesday as oil prices continued to slip following an overnight plunge on fears that global storage capacity will soon be full as a result of weak demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 0.87%, as of its final hour of trading.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged lower on the day, with the Shanghai composite down 0.19% to about 2,810.02 and the Shenzhen composite dipping 0.316% to around 1,732.56.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed fractionally lower at 19,771.19 while the Topix index ended its trading day 0.13% higher at 1,449.15. South Korea's Kospi closed 0.59% higher at 1,934.09.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.16% to close at 5,313.10.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.39% higher.

On the earnings front, HSBC on Tuesday posted a 48% year-over-year plunge in pre-tax profit for the first quarter of 2020, That was worse than expectations of analysts at Morgan Stanley, who had projected profit before tax to plunge 35.7% year-over-year. Hong Kong-listed shares of Europe's largest bank were last flat in Tuesday afternoon trade.

Meanwhile, oil prices fell in the afternoon of Asian trading hours. West Texas Intermediate for June delivery dropped 16.59% to $10.66 per barrel. International benchmark Brent crude futures also declined 5% to $18.99 per barrel.

The moves in the oil markets came after WTI for June delivery plunged more than 24% overnight, while Brent also saw sharp losses of more than 6%. Concerns over lackluster demand were exacerbated on Monday after the United States Oil Fund  popular with retail investors  said it would sell all of its contracts for June delivery beginning Monday, in favor of longer-term contracts.

Meanwhile, developments on the coronavirus front were also monitored. Globally, more than 3 million people have been infected while at least 208,131 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

Markets have gotten a boost in recent days amid hope of an easing in lockdown restrictions that have left economies effectively frozen. 

Still, JPMorgan Asset Management's Kerry Craig told CNBC that he was "very cautious" toward equity markets at present as questions remain over how successful governments will be in restarting the economy and how it could impact the corporate outlook and earnings.

"We're not gonna see, suddenly, a sudden stop in the economy become a sudden start," Craig, a global market strategist at the firm, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Tuesday. "It's gonna be very protracted, it's gonna come through very slowly and I don't think that's very much appreciated by what we're seeing in the markets."

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 358.51 points higher at 24,133.78 — its first close above 24,000 since April 17. The S&P 500 added 1.5% to close at 2,878.48 while the Nasdaq Composite rose 1.1% to end its trading day at 8,730.16

Monday's gains put the S&P 500 on pace for its biggest one-month gain since 1987 with an 11.4% surge in April. The Dow is up 10.1% month to date; that would be its best monthly performance since 2002. A partial reopening of the economy in the U.S. — in Alaska, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and others — is boosting investor sentiment.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 100.181 after dipping below the 100 mark earlier.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.16 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 107.4 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6459 after rising from levels below $0.642 yesterday.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert and Pippa Stevens contributed to this report.