Shares in Asia-Pacific were lower on Monday, with multiple major markets in the region seeing big losses as China slashed its benchmark lending rate for the first time in more than one-and-a-half years.
Mainland Chinese stocks closed lower, with the Shanghai Composite down 1.07% to 3,593.60 and the Shenzhen component falling 2.007% to 14,569.18. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped about 2%, as of its final hour of trading.
China on Monday announced a cut in its one-year loan prime rate from 3.85% to 3.8% — the first such move since April 2020. Majority of traders and economists in a Reuters poll had expected cuts to the loan prime rate.
Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 2.13% lower at 27,937.81 while the Topix index shed 2.17% to 1,941.33. South Korea’s Kospi ended the trading day 1.81% lower at 2,963.
In India, both the Nifty 50 and BSE Sensex plunged nearly 3% each, as of 12:43 p.m. local time. Australian stocks also declined on the day, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.16% to 7,292.20. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 1.92% lower.
Asian Markets Currencies & Oil
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.593 after recently climbing from below 96.
The Japanese yen traded at 113.40 per dollar, stronger than levels above 114 seen against the greenback last week. The Australian dollar was at $0.7091, off levels above $0.72 seen last week.
Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures falling 3.25% to $71.13 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 3.71% to $68.23 per barrel.
Those losses came as investors continued to track the spread of the omicron Covid variant, with the World Health Organization recently warning that the number of cases is doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas with community spread.
In Europe, the Netherlands went into lockdown from Sunday till at least Jan. 14 amid fears that its healthcare system “will become overburdened in January.” Elsewhere, Britain has also been seeing a surge in Covid infections.