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Asia mixed on poor US finish, falling iron ore prices

Asia mixed on poor US finish, falling iron ore prices

Asian stocks were mixed early Tuesday, with sentiment subdued after Wall Street broke a three-day winning streak overnight and the ongoing rout in commodity prices.

US stocks finished lower on Monday as worries heightened that a strong U.S. dollar could weigh on earnings at major companies. First-quarter earnings season officially kicks off Tuesday, with blue chips JPMorgan Chase and Intel reporting.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 gave up morning gains to close down 0.5 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dipped in and out of negative territory before closing down 0.2 percent on the day.

Nikkei flat

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was virtually unchanged by mid-morning trade, remaining short of the psychologically-important 20,000 mark.

Shares of shopping website operator Rakuten advanced 1.8 percent on news that it’s planning to acquire online content company PopSugar for USD 580 million. The Japanese conglomerate has been on an acquisition spree, having bought US eBook firm OverDrive last month.

Banking counters were buoyant in early trade, with Resona Holdings and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group up over 1 percent each.

Mainland indices choppy

China’s Shanghai Composite index inched up 0.2 percent, reversing a lower open, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tanked nearly 1 percent at the open after a blistering run-up over the past sessions.

The sell-off was prominent in the insurance, securities and banking sectors; Citic Securities plunged 1.6 percent in Shanghai and 3.4 percent in Hong Kong. Bank of China traded down 1.3 and 0.4 percent, respectively.

Kospi rises 0.3 percent

South Korea’s Kospi index pushed through the 2,100-point level for the first time in nearly four years.

Retailers are among the top gainers; Hotel Shilla rallied 12 percent, after surging the daily limit of 15 percent in the previous session, following news that it is joining hands with construction firm Hyundai Development to open the nation’s biggest duty free store in Seoul. Lotte Shopping and Shinsegae elevated 2.9 and 3.8 percent, respectively.

Cosmetics maker AmorePacific lost 2.6 percent after hitting all-time highs on Monday.

ASX falls 0.3 percent

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 index declined amid mixed trading among its key banking and resources sectors.

Early-trade laggards include BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, down 1.5 and 0.5 percent each, as iron ore prices continued to flirt with multi-year lows. Major lenders such as Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 0.7 and 0.2 percent, respectively.

Suncorp jumped 2.4 percent, seemingly unaffected by news of a leadership change.

Southeast Asia

Singapore’s economy grew faster than expected in the first three months of 2015, government data showed on Tuesday, even as the Monetary Authority of Singapore – the country’s default central bank – surprised markets by announcing no change to its monetary policy. Gross domestic product (GDP) grew an annualized 2.1 percent in January-March from the year-ago period, stronger than the 1.8 percent forecast in a Reuters poll.

Following the news, the Singapore dollar strengthened as much as 1.3613 against the US dollar from USD 1.3720, while the Straits Times index inched up modestly to near its highest level since December 2007.

Indonesia’s central bank will likely hold its key policy rate steady when policymakers meet on Tuesday, Moody’s Analytics wrote in a note.

“The recent depreciation of the rupiah has led to increases in the price of fuel. After reducing its fuel subsidy policies, the government allows fuel prices at the pump to mimic the market price. Thus, Bank Indonesia (BI) will aim to keep a lid on rising costs,” analysts said.

Meanwhile, markets in Thailand and India are closed for public holidays.

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