Escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea kept investors nervous, while eyes were also on Europe where sterling surged after British Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election for June 8, seeking to strengthen her party's majority ahead of Brexit negotiations.
France's presidential election is closely watched as the stakes for investors are high, with two anti-EU, anti-euro candidates among the four seen still in contention to make it to a second round two weeks after Sunday's ballot. Meanwhile, a surprise announcement, British Prime Minister Theresa May called for an early general election on June 8 as Britain prepares for delicate negotiations on leaving the European Union by 2019.
The political calendar was already heavy in 2017 with upcoming votes in France and Germany having major implications for the eurozone. The first round of the French presidential election is scheduled for Sunday.
Among Asian bourses
Australia Shares hit 3-week low
Australian equity market finished session at three-week lows, on tracking wider market weakness in the region as presidential elections in France. Meanwhile, escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea continued to weigh on investor sentiment. Most of the ASX sectors declined, with heavyweight bank shares being major losers after the central bank flagged risks in the country's housing market, while energy shares continued to drag on persistent weakness in oil prices. At the close, the benchmark SS&P/ASX 200 declined 32.70 points, or 0.56%, to 5804.
Financials were lower, with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Westpac Banking, Australia & New Zealand Banking and National Australia Bank down by between 1% and 1.6%.
Real estate stocks took a beating with shares of property developers Scentre Group and Stockland Corporation Ltd shedding 2.1% and 2.5%, respectively.
Shares of resources companies also declined, with growing worries about a production glut pressured crude oil prices Oil major Woodside Petroleum to 1% down, while peer Oil Search dropped 1.9% after it announced a drop in quarterly output. Meanwhile, large-cap miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto reversed early losses, with BHP ending 0.02% down and Rio shares gaining 1.6%.
Telecommunications operators Telstra and TPG Telecom both rebounded from sharp selling in recent days after the latter unveiled plans to launch a new mobile network in Australia. Telstra jumped 3.3% and TPG gained 7.1%, although the remain down 11% and 14%, respectively, so far this month.
Japan Stocks end mixed
The Japan share market finished virtually flat in choppy trade, as investors turned cautious amid lingering concern over the North Korean situation and after Britain's shock decision to call a snap general election. The 225-issue Nikkei average edged up 0.07% to 18,432.20 after traversing positive and negative territory, while the broader Topix was down 0.01% at 1,471.42.
Exporters were mixed, with Toyota Motor Corp falling 1.1%, Honda Motor Co shedding 1.2% and Panasonic Corp rising 0.7%.
Shippers fell after the Baltic dry index, or freight charges, dropped overnight. Mitsui OSK Lines shed 2.1% and Nippon Yusen stumbled 3.1%.
Toshiba tacked on 1.6% after Japan's Nikkei business daily reported the loss-hit industrial giant plans to spin off infrastructure and other major operations into separate companies in a bid to quicken management decisions. The Asahi newspaper separately reported Japan's industry ministry was considering having government-backed firms make a joint bid for Toshiba's memory chip business with US semiconductor company Broadcom, amid concerns about the sensitive technology going abroad
China Stocks fall for fourth day
The Mainland China equity market closed lower for fourth straight session, as risk aversion selloff flared on deepening worries that tighter regulations against speculation and shadow banking will hurt the country's credit-fuelled recovery. Most of the sectoral blue-chip stocks fell, with raw material shares among the worst hit as commodity prices fell sharply. But consumer and healthcare stocks - generally viewed as defensive in nature - continued to outperform the broader market ,amid a time of volatility. The blue-chip CSI300 index fell 0.5% to 3,445.88 points. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.81%, or 26.02 points, to 3,170.69. The Shenzhen Composite Index, which tracks stocks on China's second exchange, dropped 0.62%, or 13.96 points, to 1,932.46.
China has stepped up property curbs in major cities, launched a nationwide inspection on banks' businesses with a focus on shadow banking, and vowed to fight speculation in the stock market.
Underscoring the painful trade-off China is facing, the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday warned of potential economic disruptions in the medium-term if it failed to reduce its reliance on rapid credit growth.
Some investors worry that strong economic growth reported in the first quarter will begin to ease in coming months as the effect of earlier stimulus starts to fade, and as local governments announce tougher measures to curb the overheated property market.
The central bank has also signalled a move to a tighter monetary policy bias, raising short-term interest rates to contain risks in the system and discourage speculation.
Among big movers, Jiangsu Zhangjiagang Rural Commercial Bank, listed in Shenzhen in January, jumped 10% to the daily limit to 17.9 yuan. The stock had fallen 16% in the previous three days as China Securities Regulatory Commission vowed to regulate speculative or manipulated trading in recently listed stocks or those paying exceptionally high bonuses.
Similar concept stocks like Eurocrane China Co and Chongqing Construction Engineering Group also bounced up by their 10% daily limits.
Hong Kong Stocks fall on uncertainties
The Hong Kong stock market closed down for third straight session, on tracking a sell-off across Asia, Europe and the US on geopolitical concerns and growing uncertainty about the France's presidential election. Sentiment was also hurt by a weakness in China's stock market, after Beijing's stepped-up property curbs and deleveraging campaign will slow China's economic growth. The city's benchmark Hang Seng Index slid 0.4%, or 98.7 points, to 23,825.88, a level unseen since March 15. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index, which tracks the so-called H shares sold by Chinese companies, declined 0.6% to 9,983.7, the lowest level in more than two months. Turnover increased to HK$72.2 billion from HK$70.6 billion on Tuesday.
Among big movers, Geely Automobile Holdings outperformed its blue-chip peers to close 6.4% higher at HK$11.3, following the start of the Shanghai Auto Show. AAC Technologies, component provider for iPhone, surged 5.1% to HK$100.3. Casino operator Sands China lost 2.5% to HK$35.6, Galaxy Entertainment, another casino operator, fell 2.4%.
Air China was the biggest loser among H shares, ending 3.3% down to HK$6.46 after a report by Morgan Stanley recommending investors to sell H shares of mainland airline operators.
Geely Auto (00175) jumped 6.4% to HK$11.28 after Goldman Sachs raised its target price. Great Wall Motor (02333) put on 3.2% to HK$9.27 after the auto maker expects target sales of its new brand WEY to double next year. AAC Technologies (02018) shot up 5% to HK$100.3 on talks that Apple plans to launch the most expensive iPhone to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Sunny Optical (02382) gained 3% to HK$56.85.
HSBC (00005) inched down 0.5% to HK$62.1 as pound rose to 6-month high after the UK government announced an early election. CKI (01038) bucked the downtrend, rising 1.3% to HK$64.15. Standard Chartered (02888) rose 1.2% to HK$69.4.
India stocks end little changed
Key benchmark indices settled almost unchanged amid mixed trend on the bourses after a listless and rangebound session of trade. The barometer index, the S&P BSE Sensex closed with small gains while the Nifty settled with tiny losses. The Sensex rose 17.47 points or 0.06% to settle at 29,336.57. The Nifty 50 index declined 1.65 points or 0.02% to settle at 9,103.50. The Sensex snapped four-day losing streak today, 19 April 2017 while Nifty fell for the fifth straight day. Nifty hit lowest closing level in more than three weeks.
Realty and power stocks rose. Bank stocks declined. IndusInd Bank fell after Q4 results. TCS settled with tiny losses post Q4 results.
NTPC gained 1.86%. The company said board of directors has accorded approval for updating and upsizing the $4 billion medium term notes (MTN) programme upto $6 billion for raising debt from international markets to part finance the capital expenditure on new/ongoing projects, coal mining projects, renovation and modernization of power stations and for other permissible end uses.
IndusInd Bank shed 0.63% after announcing Q4 results. The bank's net profit rose 21.16% to Rs 751.61 crore on 22.36% increase in total income to Rs 5041.31 crore in Q4 March 2017 over Q4 March 2016. The result was announced during trading hours today, 19 April 2017. IndusInd Bank's net profit rose 25.43% to Rs 2867.89 crore on 22.47% increase in total income to Rs 18577.16 crore in the year ended March 2017 over the year ended March 2016. The bank's gross non-performing assets (NPAs) stood at Rs 1054.87 crore as on 31 March 2017 as against Rs 971.62 crore as on 30 December 2016 and Rs 776.82 crore as on 31 March 2016. The ratio of gross NPAs to gross advances stood at 0.93% as on 31 March 2017 as against 0.94% as on 31 December 2016 and 0.87% as on 31 March 2016. The ratio of net NPAs to net advances stood at 0.39% as on 31 March 2017 as against 0.39% as on 31 December 2016 and 0.36% as on 31 March 2016. The bank's provisions and contingencies (excluding tax provisions) rose 101.32% to Rs 430.13 crore in Q4 March 2017 over Q4 March 2016.
Yes Bank dropped 0.03%. The bank's net profit rose 30.2% to Rs 914.10 crore on 29.44% rise in total income to Rs 5606.38 crore in Q4 March 2017 over Q4 March 2016. The company announced Q4 results after market hours today, 19 April 2017. The bank's gross non-performing assets (NPAs) rose to Rs 2018.56 crore as on 31 March 2017 as against Rs 1005.85 crore as on 30 December 2016 and Rs 748.98 crore as on 31 March 2016. The ratio of gross NPAs to gross advances rose to 1.52% as on 31 March 2017 as against 0.85% as on 31 December 2016 and 0.76% as on 31 March 2016. The ratio of net NPAs to net advances stood at 0.81% as on 31 March 2017 as against 0.29% as on 31 December 2016 and 0.29% as on 31 March 2016. The bank's provisions and contingencies (excluding tax provisions) rose 66.11% to Rs 309.73 crore in Q4 March 2017 over Q4 March 2016. The board of directors of the bank have recommended the payment of final dividend Rs 12 per share for the year ended 31 March 2017 (FY 2017).
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