Asian Shares Mostly Lower Ahead Of Powell’s Testimony

Asian stocks closed mostly lower on Tuesday as oil prices extended declines for a second straight session, worries over the U.S.-China trade war persisted and investors looked ahead to Congressional testimony from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell for clues on the interest rate outlook.

Chinese stocks fell for a third straight session, with energy firms pacing the declines. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 15.42 points or 0.6 percent to 2,798.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 357.98 points or 1.3 percent to close at 28,181.68.

Australian shares fell as weak commodity prices weighed on resource stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 37.90 points or 0.6 percent to 6,203.60, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 38.30 points or 0.6 percent at 6,288.40.

Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy lost 2-3 percent after oil prices fell more than 4 percent on Monday amid reports that Russia and other oil producers could raise output by 1 million barrels per day if shortages hit the global oil market.

Rio Tinto shares shed 0.3 percent. The mining giant reported a 14 percent increase in second quarter iron ore shipments and projected 2018 shipments at the upper end of its guidance range. BHP Billiton fell 1.7 percent and Whitehaven Coal declined 1.5 percent on concerns over softening Chinese growth.

Financials bucked the downtrend, with banks Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac rising between 0.2 percent and 0.3 percent.

In economic news, members of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s monetary policy board said that the country’s economic growth is continuing at an acceptable race, minutes from the central bank’s July 3rd meeting revealed.

A gauge of Australian consumer confidence climbed to 121.5 during the week ended July 15th from 120.1 in the preceding week, a survey compiled by the ANZ Bank and Roy Morgan Research showed. It was the first increase in five weeks.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares hit a one-month high as a weak yen helped lift exporters, offsetting weakness in machinery stocks on concerns over slowing growth in China.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 100.01 points or 0.4 percent to 22,697.36, while the broader Topix index closed 0.9 percent higher at 1,745.05.

Canon, Panasonic, Honda Motor and Toyota Motor all rose about 1 percent as the dollar hovered near a six-month high against the yen.

Defensive stocks also attracted buying, with East Japan Railway and Ajinomoto rising around 2 percent each.

On the other hand, robot maker Fanuc lost 4.1 percent and Kawasaki Heavy Industries slumped 7.3 percent.

Seoul stocks retreated as oil extended declines and caution crept in ahead of Powell’s first congressional testimony. The benchmark Kospi dipped 4.07 points or 0.2percent to 2,297.92, dragged down by chemical stocks. Asiana Airlines jumped 3 percent after reports that SK Group is considering buying the airline.

New Zealand shares finished marginally lower, dragged down by consumer staple and construction stocks. A2 Milk shares dropped 1.7 percent and Fletcher Building lost 2.1 percent.

New Zealand’s house prices increased in June from a year ago, while sales declined, the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand reported.

Another report from Statistics New Zealand revealed that inflation in the country rose 0.4 percent sequentially in the second quarter of 2018.

Singapore’s Straits Times index was moving up 0.3 percent. The country’s non-oil domestic exports rose 1.1 percent year-over-year in June, much slower than the 15.5 percent surge in May, a government report showed. That was well below the 7.8 percent growth economists had forecast.

India’s Sensex was moving up 0.2 percent as falling oil prices helped ease inflation-related concerns.

Indonesia’s Jakarta Composite index was losing 0.9 percent and the Taiwan Weighted dropped 0.4 percent while Malaysia’s KLSE Composite was rising 0.2 percent.

Overnight, U.S. stocks ended mostly lower as oil prices tumbled and investors braced for a heavy week of corporate earnings and economic news.

The Dow rose 0.2 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.1 percent.

Encouraging economic reports on retail sales and New York manufacturing activity as well as upbeat news from Bank of America helped to limit overall losses in the broader market.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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