Asian Shares Muted

Asian stocks ended on a muted note Wednesday as worries about global economic growth and the uncertainty over U.S.-China trade talks kept investors on the sidelines.

Underlying sentiment remained cautious after media reports suggested that the United States has rejected Beijing’s offer to hold a preparatory meeting in Washington ahead of next week’s high-level trade talks.

However, White House adviser Lawrence Kudlow stressed that the two sides were on track to have “very, very important” high-level talks at the end of the month that will be “determinative.”

China’s Shanghai Composite index ended little changed with a positive bias on hopes that increased Chinese spending would stem an economic slowdown. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also finished marginally higher.

Japanese shares fluctuated before finishing marginally lower as export data fell short of expectations and the Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady, as widely expected, and cut its price projections.

The Nikkei average dropped 29.19 points or 0.14 percent to 20,593.72 while the broader Topix index closed 0.60 percent lower at 1,547.03.

The Bank of Japan kept its monetary policy unchanged today but downgraded the inflation forecast for this year primarily driven by a sharp fall in oil prices.

The central bank said it would conduct purchases of Japanese government bonds in a flexible manner so that the outstanding amount will increase at an annual pace of about JPY 80 trillion.

Sony ended little changed amid reports that it is moving its European headquarters to the Netherlands from the UK to continue business as usual and to avoid disruptions due to Brexit.

Automaker Subaru tumbled 3.4 percent. The company halted output at its sole car factory in Japan, which accounts for about 60 percent of its global production, due to a defect in component procured from a supplier.

Australian markets edged lower as global growth concerns pulled down material stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 15.10 points or 0.26 percent to 5,843.70 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 15.60 points or 0.26 percent at 5,908.70.

Mining and energy stocks fell on concerns over slowing global growth, reflecting signs of weakness in Europe and a long-running trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto slid around half a percent while energy stocks Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search, Origin Energy and Santos fell over 1 percent.

Retirement fund manager Challenger plunged more than 17 percent after it flagged a 97 percent drop in interim profit and also lowered its full-year outlook.

IOOF Holdings slumped 8.2 percent after the company repaid super fund members following an accidental sale of assets in 2015.

Seoul stocks finished modestly higher, with the benchmark Kospi closing up 0.47 percent at 2,127.78.

New Zealand shares ended little changed on diminished expectations for rate cuts after inflation data came in slightly higher than the median forecast expected by economists.

U.S. stocks fell overnight to snap a four-day winning streak, with renewed trade tensions, Brexit worries and global growth concerns keeping investors on the sidelines.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite tumbled 1.9 percent and the S&P 500 declined 1.4 percent.

Asian Shares Retreat

Asian stocks fell broadly on Tuesday amid concerns about the global economic outlook after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) slashed its world economic forecast, citing a range of triggers beyond escalating trade tensions.

These potential triggers include a “no-deal” Brexit for the U.K. and a deeper-than-envisaged slowdown in China.

The IMF now projects a 3.5 percent growth rate worldwide for 2019 and 3.6 percent for 2020, down 0.2 and 0.1 percentage points below its last forecasts in October.

Brexit worries also lingered as British Prime Minister Theresa May offered nothing new to break the political deadlock just 10 weeks before Britain leaves the EU.

China’s Shanghai Composite index fell 30.81 points or 1.18 percent to 2,579.70 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed at 27,005.45, down 191.09 points or 0.70 percent from its previous close.

Japanese shares gave up early gains to close lower as the yen strengthened on worries over slowing global growth, stalled Brexit talks and the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.

The benchmark Nikkei average declined 96.42 points or 0.47 percent to 20,622.91, while the broader Topix index closed 0.63 percent lower at 1,556.43.

Fanuc, Komatsu and Panasonic declined 2-3 percent. Zozo slumped 6.4 percent after reports that a number of shops were withdrawing from its online fashion shopping site.

Australian markets retreated after mining giant BHP reported a drop in second-quarter iron ore production and said it would take a $600 million hit due to production disruptions at its copper and iron ore operations.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 dropped 31.60 points or 0.54 percent to 5,858.80 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 29.20 points or 0.49 percent at 5,924.30.

BHP shares dropped 1.3 percent while rivals Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group fell 0.6 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

The big four banks fell 1-2 percent. Energy stocks fell broadly despite higher oil prices. Oil Search tumbled as much as 2.8 percent while Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Origin Energy ended down between 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent.

Seoul stocks fell amid growth worries after China reported its weakest growth in nearly three decades and the IMF warned over the impact of trade tensions.

The benchmark Kospi slid 6.84 points or 0.32 percent to 2,117.77 despite GDP data for the fourth quarter of 2018 coming in above expectations.

Samsung Biologics, Samsung Group’s health care unit, bucked the weak trend to end 1.8 percent higher after an administrative court suspended the execution of punitive action by the financial watchdog for alleged violation of accounting rules.

New Zealand shares fell modestly, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending down 33.94 points or 0.37 percent at 9,114.63, dragged down by financials and consumer staple companies.

Overnight, the U.S. markets were closed for a public holiday

Asian Shares Push Higher On Trade Talk Hopes

 Asian stocks ended on a solid note Monday as weak GDP data from China spurred hopes that authorities will pursue more stimulus to support growth.

Investors also cheered media reports suggesting that China had offered to buy more American goods through 2024 to eliminate its trade imbalance with the U.S.

Chinese shares rose as GDP figures came in line with expectations and reports on industrial production and retail sales topped forecasts.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 0.56 percent to 2,610.51 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.39 percent to close at 27,196.54.

China’s GDP grew a seasonally adjusted 1.5 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2018, in line with expectations and down from 1.6 percent in the third quarter.

On an annualized basis, GDP expanded 6.4 percent – again matching forecasts and down from 6.5 percent in the three months prior.

Separately, industrial production climbed 5.7 percent on year in December, topping forecasts for 5.3 percent and up from 5.4 percent in November.

Retail sales were up an annual 8.2 percent – topping expectations for 8.1 percent, which would have been unchanged.

Fixed asset investment gained 5.9 percent on year – unchanged from the November reading but missing forecasts for a gain of 6.0 percent.

Japanese shares eked out modest gains to hit over one-month high as a softer yen boosted exporters. The Nikkei average rose 53.26 points or 0.26 percent to 20,719.33, its highest level since Dec. 19. The broader Topix index closed 0.56 percent higher at 1,566.37.

Toyota Motor rose 0.3 percent and Panasonic jumped as much as 3.3 percent after reports that they plan to launch a joint venture in 2020 to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles.

Shares of Mitsui OSK Lines rallied 3.5 percent and Kawasaki Kisen surged 3.6 per cent. Lixil Group Corp soared 4.6 percent after denying it had considered delisting from Japan through a management buyout.

Australian markets edged up slightly in thin trade, with banks and energy stocks pacing the gainers.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index inched up 10.80 points or 0.18 percent to 5,890.40 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended up 12.30 points or 0.21 percent at 5,953.50.

Lenders ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose between 0.1 percent and half a percent while insurer Insurance Australia Group advanced 1.1 percent.

Santos rose 0.7 percent and Oil Search gained 1 percent ahead of their quarterly production reports, due this week.

Rivals Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy also closed higher as oil prices remained supported by supply cuts led by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and some non-OPEC allies, including Russia.

Gold miners Newcrest and Evolution fell around 2 percent as rising equity markets and a firmer dollar dented the appeal of the precious metal.

Seoul stocks fluctuated before finishing a tad higher as investors awaited further developments regarding U.S.-China trade talks. The benchmark Kospi finished marginally higher at 2,124.61.

Automakers fell on profit taking, with Hyundai Motor falling over 3 percent while parts maker Hyundai Mobis shed 2.4 percent.

New Zealand shares advanced, with the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index ending up 50.86 points or 0.56 percent at 9,148.57, led by industrial and healthcare companies.

U.S. stocks rose on Friday to reach their best closing levels in well over a month after a report from Bloomberg News said China has offered to go on a six-year buying spree to ramp up imports from the U.S.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite added 1 percent and the S&P 500 added 1.3 percent.