HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell after a recent rally as investors cashed in while also looking ahead to key central bank meetings that could provide some idea about monetary policy in the new year.
Wall Street provided yet another record-breaking lead as the selling that hit equities at the start of the month abates, while energy firms were supported by stronger oil prices.
The week kicked off on a high following forecast-busting jobs data from the US on Friday, which reinforced the view that the world’s top economy is in rude health.
But dealers cashed out on Tuesday, with analysts also pointing to thinning volumes towards the end of the year.
Tokyo’s Nikkei ended down 0.3 percent, while Shanghai sank more than one percent by the close and Hong Kong was off 0.5 percent in the afternoon.
Seoul shed 0.4 percent, Singapore was off 0.2 percent and Taipei eased 0.3 percent. Manila, Bangkok and Jakarta were also lower, though Sydney closed up 0.3 percent.
Despite the retreat analysts were upbeat for the region’s markets.
“It’s been a few good days on Asia’s stock markets as last week’s swoon gave way to renewed confidence,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.
He added that “save for the recent weakness Asian stock markets have generally performed reasonably well over the past few months”.
McKenna attributed the recent losses to profit-taking and lingering concerns about China’s economy “rather than anything chronic or outright negative”.
– ‘Significant outage’ –
Focus is now on the last policy meetings of central banks in the US, Britain and the eurozone this week.
While the Federal Reserve is expected to lift interest rates again, the key will be comments from bank boss Janet Yellen, which will be scanned for clues about its timetable for future increases.
Bitcoin futures for January ended at $18,850.00 as the cryptocurrency launched in a major exchange Sunday, well above its $15,000 initial price on the Cboe.
The Cboe launch marked the first opportunity for professional traders to invest in the digital unit on a traditional platform and is expected to be followed in a week by a rival listing on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
The spot price for Bitcoin quoted by Bloomberg News — which is lower than the Cboe — was slightly lower Tuesday, sitting at $16,631.
On oil markets Brent hit a more than two-year high as both main contracts built on Monday’s surge that came on news that a pipeline in the North Sea has been shut down for a few weeks after it was found to be leaking.
“This is a significant outage at this pipeline supplies nearly 40 percent of the North Sea’s Crude which represents around 550,000 barrels per day,” said Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers.
On Monday Brent jumped around two percent while WTI was up one percent.
But Ric Spooner, a Sydney-based analyst at CMC Markets, told Bloomberg News: “The relatively high global inventories will possibly cap any rally we have from here.”
The closure provided some much-needed support to the commodity as traders grow concerned that a Russia-OPEC output cap could be reviewed next year.
– Key figures around 0720 GMT –
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 22,866.17 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 28,812.93
Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.3 percent at 3,280.81 (close)
Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1777 from $1.1769 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3338 from $1.3340
Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.42 yen from 113.56 yen
Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 41 cents at $58.40 per barrel
Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 88 cents at $65.57 per barrel
New York – DOW: UP 0.2 percent at 24,386.03 (close)
London – FTSE 100: UP 0.8 percent at 7,453.48 (close)