Asian Markets Edge Lower, Amidst Uncertainty on Global Economic Recovery
Asia-Pacific markets struggled for gains Friday as investors turned cautious, despite a positive finish stateside in the previous session.
Australia’s ASX 200 fell 0.7% as all sectors turned red. Energy and materials were down 1.4% and 0.92%, respectively, while the heavily-weighted financials subindex lost 0.46%.
The Japanese market returned to trade after being closed Thursday for a holiday. The benchmark Nikkei 225 was down 0.43%, while the Topix index traded near flat. In South Korea, the Kospi index stumbled 0.52%.
Chinese mainland shares also fell: The Shanghai composite declined 0.53% after market open while the Shenzhen component was down 0.3%. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was down 1.31%.
Data showed China’s factory activity expanded at a slower-than-expected pace in April as the official manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Index fell to 51.1, from 51.9 in March. A reading above 50 indicates expansion.
Friday’s session followed an overnight session on Wall Street, where major U.S. indexes finished higher. Economic activity stateside picked up in the first three months of 2021 as GDP rose 6.4% annually, but it fell slightly short of expectations.
Asian Markets Currencies and oil
The U.S. dollar last traded at 90.628 against a basket of its peers. The dollar index is down from levels above 91.2 reached in the previous week.
The Japanese yen changed hands at 108.82 per dollar, comparatively weaker than levels below 108.00 that it traded at last week. Elsewhere, the Australian dollar traded higher by 0.15% at $0.7776.
Oil prices slipped on Friday after touching their highest in six weeks in early Asia trading hours as concerns of wider lockdowns in India and Brazil to curb the COVID-19 pandemic offset a bullish outlook on summer fuel demand and economic recovery.
Brent crude fell 26 cents, or 0.4 per cent, to $68.30 a barrel by 0041 GMT, the last day’s trading for the front-month June contract.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for June was at $64.73 a barrel, down 28 cents, or 0.4 per cent