Asia Pacific share market closed down on Wednesday, 17 May 2017, as uncertainty mounted over US President Donald Trump's future following reports that he tried to interfere with a federal investigation.
Skepticism about the Trump administration grew after a news report that he disclosed highly classified intelligence related to the Islamic State militant group to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in their meeting at the White House last week. Trump also came under fire following a media report that he held a meeting in February with then Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and asked him to end the FBI's investigation into shady ties between former national security adviser Michael Flynn and Russia.
Among Asian bourses
Australia Stocks fall to 7-week low
Australian equity market closed session at seven week low, as disappointing wage growth and consumer confidence data hurt sentiment. Most of the ASX sectors declined with financial issue being major loser. The S&P/ASX 200 index slipped 1.1%, or 64.518 points, to 5,786 at the close of trade, to its lowest settlement since 27 March 2017.
Financial stocks accounted for more than half of Wednesday's losses with the "Big Four" banks leading decliners in the benchmark. Moody's Investors Service weighed in on the four biggest banks, warning that measures introduced in Canberra's budget could further pressure earnings growth already set to moderate due to low interest rates and competition. The banks have been under pressure for several weeks, following lackluster earnings reports and then a surprise tax on liabilities proposed in the budget. Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 2%, Westpac Banking was 2.3% weaker, Australia & New Zealand Banking lost 1.3% and National Australia Bank was 2.1% lower. Investment bank and asset manager Macquarie dropped by 1.3%.
Energy stocks also weakened, as crude oil retreated amid concerns that U.S. production was undercutting efforts by major producing nations to curtail output. Woodside Petroleum slipped 0.2%, Oil Search fell 0.3% and Santos declined 2.5%.
Resource stocks were the only part of the Australia market in positive territory, buoyed by a rally in Chinese iron-ore futures. Diversified miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto rose 0.2% and 2.2%, respectively, and Fortescue Metals Group gained 4.2%. The three are among the world's largest producers of iron ore.
Japan Stocks fall on firm yen
The Japan share market finished lower, as risk sentiments weighed down by the yen's ascent against the dollar. Meanwhile selloff pressure intensified on growing uncertainty over the policy management of U.S. President Donald Trump after news reports that he has leaked to Russia highly classified information related to the Islamic State militant group. The 225-issue Nikkei average shed 104.94 points, or 0.53%, to finish at 19,814.88. The Topix index of all first-section issues closed down 8.41 points, or 0.53%, at 1,575.82. Falling issues far outnumbered rising ones 1,287 to 630 in the TSE's first section, while 98 issues were unchanged. Volume fell to 1.96 billion shares from Tuesday's 2.17 billion shares.
Financial institutions, including mega-bank groups Mitsubishi UFJ, Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui, insurer Dai-ichi Life and brokerage firm Nomura met with selling, reflecting overnight falls of their U.S. peers in New York and lower U.S. long-term interest rates.
The higher yen pushed down export-oriented names, such as automakers Toyota, Honda and Subaru, electronics manufacturer Panasonic and electronics parts producer Murata Manufacturing. A stronger yen is bad for Japanese shares as it hurts the profitability of the country's major exporters. The dollar weakened to 112.31 yen, from 113.15 yen in New York.
Oil companies Idemitsu, Cosmo Energy Holdings and Showa Shell suffered sharp drops due to weaker crude oil prices.
By contrast, game-maker Nintendo, mobile phone carrier SoftBank Group and drugmaker Takeda gained ground. Toshiba ticked up 0.13 per cent after diving more than 12 per cent in the previous session in response to warnings that it likely lost more than US$8.4 billion in the past fiscal year.
China Stocks break 4-day winning streak, regulatory concerns linger
The Mainland China equity market closed higher down for the first time in five straight sessions, as investors opted to book gain off the table amid lingering concerns over tighter regulation and economic growth despite recent soothing regulatory comments. Most sectors lost ground, led by defensive consumer and healthcare stocks, as investors took profits from the recent rally. The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.5%, to 3,409.97 points, while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3% to 3,104.44 points.
Chinese stocks had declined for five weeks in a row amid concerns that Beijing's stepped-up efforts to reduce leverage in the financial system would trigger liquidity stress and damage the economy. But the market rebounded in the past sessions after Beijing moved to ease investor concerns through generous cash injections in the interbank market and market-friendly comments.
Hong Kong Stocks fall 0.2%
The Hong Kong stock market finished session down, as anxiety over the fallout from the U.S. President's reported interference in a federal investigation weighed on risk assets. However, losses were limited, aided by steady flows of money from mainland China. The Hang Seng index fell 0.2 per cent, to 25,293.63, while the China Enterprises Index lost 0.5 per cent, to 10,383.14 points.
Shares of the People's Insurance Group Of China hit a near two-month high after it unveiled plans to list in Shanghai. But shares of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd slumped roughly 6 per cent after the drugmaker announced plans to offer additional shares at a discount to the market price.
Cathay Pacific (00293) jumped 4.9% to HK$11.1 making itself the best blue-chip winner. The local carrier held its AGM this morning, with management saying that the worst is behind now. It also plans job cut, which triggered share price spike of 6.6% at one stage.
MTRC (00066) gained 2.3% to HK$49.1 after its Chairman Frederick Ma said the company is interested in bidding, along with China Railway, the 350-km high-speed railway connecting Singapore and Malaysia, which is part of the "Road and Belt Initiative" projects.
CLP (00002) and Link REIT (00823) hit all-time highs of HK$84.45 and HK$59.4. But CLP closed down 0.2% to HK$84. Link REIT gained 1.6% to HK$59.15.
Meitu (01357) plunged 9% to HK$9.8 after Morgan Stanley Capital International (MSCI) withdrew its previous decision of adding the stock into its MSCI China All Shares Index.
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