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Asian markets on the back foot as oil prices resume decline

Asian stocks saw mixed trading early Tuesday, despite another strong session on Wall Street, as oil prices resumed their downward slide.

US stocks advanced overnight, with technology leading the Dow and S&P 500 to record finishes. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.9 percent, rising for a fourth session to end at a record high, while the S&P 500 gained 0.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq added 0.3 percent.

Meanwhile, US crude’s front month contract settled down 3.3 percent at USD 55.26 a barrel, near session lows, after Saudi Arabia’s powerful oil minister said OPEC would not cut production at any price. Brent fell nearly 2 percent to USD 60 after hitting session bottom at USD 59.93.

Japanese markets are shut for the Emperor’s Birthday holiday.

Mainland indices mixed

China’s Shanghai Composite index skidded 2.2 percent at the open, as traders focused on news that Beijing is investigating possible stock-price manipulation. The securities agency said Friday that it had launched investigations into 18 stocks, but didn’t explain the reasons for the probe at the time. Most of the stocks targeted are those of small-cap companies, such as a maker of automobile tires in eastern China’s Shandong province.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index added 0.2 percent kick off Tuesday near its highest level since December 12.

Dalian Wanda Commercial Properties opened up 0.2 percent to HKUSD 48.10 in its trading debut, compared to its issue price of HKUSD 48. The Chinese real estate developer, owned by billionaire Wang Jianlin, raised USD 3.7 billion making it Hong Kong’s biggest initial public offering since 2010.

Sun Hung Kai Properties gained 0.7 percent after a corruption trial involving company officials concluded last week. A judge is set to announce the sentences, which could see Hong Kong tycoon Thomas Kwok and former high ranking public official Rafael Hui face up to 7 years in jail for each corruption conviction.

ASX loses 0.6 percent

Australian equities appear set to snap a four-day rally early Tuesday. The benchmark S&P ASX 200 index retreated from a five-week high of 5,442 points as weaker commodity prices overnight hurt sentiment.

Energy producers led declines; Santos plunged 2.4 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 2 percent, respectively. Miners also put up a dismal showing, with Mount Gibson and BC Iron trading 5.1 and 6.7 percent lower each.

Telstra is in focus after it said it would buy Pacnet for USD 697 million. Shares of Australia’s largest telecom services provider were 0.3 percent weaker early Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Australian dollar dropped 0.1 percent to trade at USD 0.8125 against the greenback, near multi-year lows.

Kospi flat

South Korean shares saw subdued trade in Tuesday’s morning session after the Kospi index finished near its highest level since December 10 in the previous session. The junior Kosdaq index traded 0.2 percent lower.

Energy plays gave up Monday’s gains to open lower; the country’s largest refiner SK Innovation traded little changed, while S-Oil receded 0.4 percent.

Utility stocks traded mixed after President Park Geun-hye said electricity rates and other public utility costs should come down to reflect falling oil prices last week. Korea Electric Power (KEPCO) dipped 0.1 percent while Korea Gas inched up 0.1 percent.

Steelmaker Posco, which announced that it has completed its lithium production plant in Argentina, fell nearly 1 percent.

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