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Asia Pacific Market: Protectionism worry drags on stocks

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Pacific share market finished session mostly down on Monday, 20 March 2017, on tracking an uninspiring lead from US markets on Friday and renewed worries over global trade protectionism after financial leaders of the world's biggest economies dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was fractionally lower.

U. S. stocks closed mixed Friday, dragged down by declines in financial and health care stocks. The industrial average closed down 0.1% to 20,914.62, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.13% to 2,378.25. The composite closed flat at 5,901.00.

Finance ministers from twenty of the world's biggest economies held a two-day meeting, and warned against competitive devaluations and disorderly FX markets but failed to agree on keeping global trade free and open.

Financial leaders from the world's biggest economies reiterated their warnings against competitive devaluations and disorderly foreign exchange markets at the meeting in the German town of Baden-Baden over the weekend. But they failed to agree on a commitment to keep global trade free and open, highlighting a global shift towards protectionism.

Importantly we saw other leaders such as (Japanese Prime Minister) Shinzo Abe and (German Chancellor) Angela Merkel come out publicly supporting free trade, and for now the protectionist stance remains constrained to the US It would be more concerning if this began spreading to other countries.

Markets are focused on a raft of speeches by Federal Reserve officials this week, including Chicago's Charles Evans on Tuesday and Friday, Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday and Dallas' Robert Kaplan and Minneapolis's Neel Kashkari on Friday and New York's William Dudley on Saturday.

Attention now turns to the French election, with the first Presidential debate set to take place on Monday. Opinion polls show independent centrist Emmanuel Macron would lead far-right leader Marine Le Pen by a hair in first-round voting, before beating her in the run-off.

In commodities, oil prices were steady last Friday after dropping nearly 10% for the week on concerns of a continued global supply overhang. During Asian time, Brent crude was down 0.35% at $51.58 a barrel, while U. S. crude fell 0.59% to $48.50.

Among Asian bourses

Australia Shares slips as financials, energy drag on index

Australian finished session down, due to an uninspired lead from US markets on Friday and worries over global trade protectionism after financial leaders of the world's biggest economies dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open. ASX Sectors were mostly down, with financials, real estate, and energy stocks leading the losses. At the close, the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index surrendered 20.7 points, or 0.36%, to 5,778.9, while the broader All Ordinaries index backtracked 20.3 points, or 0.35%, to 5,820.5. Falling stocks outnumbered advancing ones on the Australia Stock Exchange by 631 to 453 and 359 ended unchanged. The S&P/ASX 200 VIX, which measures the implied volatility of S&P/ASX 200 options, was up 5.43% to 10.274.

Financials dragged the index the most with three of the "big four" banks losing between 0.3% and 0.5% while National Australia Bank gained 0.4%.

Real estate stocks were the second-biggest drag on the index with Scentre Group Ltd closing 2.8% lower and Westfield Corporation sliding 1%.

In materials, Fortescue was steady at A$6.70 and Rio Tinto slid 0.9% to A$62.39, while BHP Billiton bucked the trend to edge up 0.2% to A$24.88. In energy, Santos skidded 1.1% to A$3.69, while Woodside lost 0.5% to A$31.37 as crude prices lost more than half a% in Asian trade.

China Stocks end up as energy offsets fresh property curbs

The Mainland China ended higher after recouping losses late afternoon, as strong gains in energy stocks offset weakness in developers following fresh measures to cool the property market. The blue-chip CSI300 index rose 0.1%, to 3,449.61 points, while the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.41%, or 13.36 points, to 3,250.81. The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, climbed 0.31%, or 6.32 points, to 2,036.05.

Energy firms rallied strongly, with heavyweight China Shenhua leading rally after the country's largest coal miner announced a spectacular dividend payment proposal. Shares in the coal miner surged by their 10% trade limit to close at a 19-month high, as the company proposed to pay total dividend of 59 billion yuan in cash after recording a 40.7% increase in net profit for 2016.

An index tracking the property sector tumbled after more cities imposed fresh property restrictions over the weekend. The Beijing municipal government announced new steps to rein in its booming housing market after the market close on Friday. Data on Saturday suggested the impact of earlier property cooling steps by many cities may have been short-lived. China's home prices picked up speed again in February after slowing in the previous four months, while sales have surged.

Official data on Saturday showed that China's property prices rose in February after having slowed in the past four months.

New home prices were up 0.3%, compared to January's 0.2% increase. Meanwhile, property sales jumped 25.1% in January and February, the strongest annual growth in seven years.

Hong Kong Stocks end at fresh 19-month high

The Hong Kong closed session at fresh 19-month high, building on last week's rally after the Federal Reserve flagged a slower pace of interest rate rises this year and as Chinese investors pumped in more funds into the local market on optimism over earnings and dividend payouts. The gains were led by energy and tech shares, but an index tracking mainland properties tumbled, after China stepped up real estate curbs in a number of cities, and vowed to restrict lending to the sector. The Hang Seng index rose 0.8%, to 24,501.99, while the China Enterprises Index gained 0.7%, to 10,583.98 points. Turnover decreased slightly to HK$97.8 billion from HK$121.3 billion on Friday.

China Shenhua (01088) jumped 16% to HK$19.14 after the company declared special dividend of RMB2.51 per share. Citi Research upgraded its rating for China Shenhua to "buy". China Coal (01898) also climbed 4% to HK$4.18.

China Mobile (00941) added 3.7% to HK$90.35 on hopes of a special dividend. Tencent (00700) is scheduled to report its earnings on 22 March. It closed up 2.8% to all-time high of HK$228.2. The stocks contributed 60- and 71-point gains to the benchmark index.

Mainland developers were pressured on fresh measures to cool the property market. Over the weekend, six Chinese cities tightened property policies, including Beijing and Guangzhou. CR Land (01109) and China Vanke (02202) fell 2% and 4% to HK$22 and HK$22.35. China Overseas Land & Investment (00688) slipped 2% to HK$24.5. Its subsidiary China Overseas Property (02669) plunged 5% to HK$1.47 despite of a 93% growth of its 2016 net profit.

Indian Market snaps two-day winning streak

Key benchmark indices drifted lower on first trading day of the week today, weighed by selling in index heavyweights, Infosys, Reliance Industries and ICICI Bank. The barometer index, the S&P BSE Sensex, lost 130.25 points or 0.44% to settle at 29,518.74. The Nifty 50 index fell 33.20 points or 0.36% to settle at 9,126.85. Weakness in world stocks dampened sentiment on the domestic bourses.

Frontline IT stocks declined as the rupee continued its recent appreciation against the dollar. TCS (down 1.82%), Infosys (down 1.87%), HCL Technologies (down 0.23%), Tech Mahindra (down 0.63%), Wipro (down 1.59%) fell. Services Software (up 0.38%), MindTree (up 0.03%), Hexaware Technologies (up 0.45%) and MphasiS (up 0.03%) rose.

The partially convertible rupee was hovering at 65.345 versus Friday's close of 65.475. A firm rupee adversely affects operating profit margins of IT firms as the sector derives a lion's share of revenue from exports.

Dena Bank rose 4.18% after the bank announced after market hours on Friday, 17 March 2017, that it received a communication from Government of India informing capital allocation of Rs 600 crore as part of turnaround linked infusion plan. The board approval for raising of capital of the bank through issue of equity shares to Government of India, LIC of India and GIC of India on preferential basis, is being obtained.

Idea Cellular fell 9.55% to Rs 97.60 on BSE after the company said its board approved merger with Vodafone India. The announcement was made before trading hours today, 20 March 2017.

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First Published: Mon, March 20 2017. 17:06 IST