By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
SYDNEY (MarketWatch) — Asian markets mostly declined Wednesday, with Japanese stocks skidding on a firmer yen and shares in Hong Kong weakening as financials lost ground.
The Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.33% tumbled 2.6% to 10,600.44, after ending at a level not seen since April 30, 2010 in the previous session.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.10% declined 0.1%, the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -1.22% dropped 0.7%, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.33% slid 0.3% and Taiwan’s Taiex fell 0.8%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.34% closed up 0.5%.
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +1.22% and the S&P 500 Index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.91% ended slightly higher in the U.S. on Tuesday, after the release of some mixed economic data and before this week’s major earnings releases. Read: U.S. stocks edge up; Apple weighs on tech.
Losses for Japanese stocks Wednesday came as the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0239% traded at 88.07 yen, down from ¥88.92 in late North American trading on Tuesday. The yen jumped against the dollar, bucking its recent downward trend, following reports the country’s economy minister Amira Amari will attend the next Bank of Japan meeting. Read Currencies report.
“In and of itself, the attendance of the Economics Minister at a Bank of Japan meeting is not unusual, but given Amari’s recent warning about yen weakness, expectations of aggressive BOJ easing were pared back a touch,” said Sue Trinh, strategist at RBC Capital Markets.
Companies that have seen some gains in recent sessions amid yen weakness pared some of that strength on Wednesday.
Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203522406/delayed JP:7270 +0.43% /zigman2/quotes/200526066/delayed FUJHY -0.69% fell 2.9%, Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 -1.22% /zigman2/quotes/209396469/delayed NINOY +0.52% down 4.6% and Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -0.10% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +1.19% dropped 3%.
Heavyweight retailer Fast Retailing Co. /zigman2/quotes/200663563/delayed JP:9983 +0.59% /zigman2/quotes/208569095/delayed FRCOF -3.24% fell 4.6% after a downgrade to neutral from buy at Goldman Sachs, with the broker saying that the firm’s earnings outlook has now largely been priced in, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
Shares of All Nippon Airways Co. /zigman2/quotes/202790240/delayed JP:9202 +0.19% /zigman2/quotes/200046541/delayed ALNPY -1.80% fell 1.6%, but outperformed the broader market. Japanese broadcaster NHK reported the airline was to ground its entire fleet of 17 Boeing Co. /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA +2.43% Dreamliners after a 787 aircraft made an emergency landing as it headed toward western Japan.
Rival Japan Airlines Co. /zigman2/quotes/202202214/delayed JP:9201 +0.72% rose 1.8%, shrugging off reports that it would also ground its Dreamliners Wednesday. The airline has a fleet of 7 Dreamliner planes, with five currently in service, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Wednesday saw mainland Chinese financials retreat in Hong Kong, pulling back after recent gains. Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 +0.78% /zigman2/quotes/202128064/delayed BCMXY -2.38% dropped 1.3% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 +0.54% /zigman2/quotes/202401350/delayed IDCBY +0.93% fell 0.7%.
China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. /zigman2/quotes/202085942/delayed HK:386 +1.61% /zigman2/quotes/202783176/composite SNP +0.70% fell 1.6% in the energy sector, while China Coal Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/201486584/delayed HK:1898 -1.66% /zigman2/quotes/205321671/delayed CCOZY -4.37% slid 1.3%.
On the Chinese mainland, losses were also concentrated in financials, with Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/207155262/delayed CN:601328 +0.55% down 1.6%, and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/204629388/delayed CN:601288 0.00% off 2.1%.
Property firms also sagged, with Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 +4.61% down 2.9% and Poly Real Estate Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/201864015/delayed CN:600048 +3.74% 3.4% lower.
South Korean trading saw gains for auto makers, in contrast to Japan, with Hyundai Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 +0.84% /zigman2/quotes/204364212/delayed HYMTF -0.65% up 0.7%, and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206019389/delayed KR:000270 -1.03% /zigman2/quotes/205439169/delayed KIMTF 0.00% 2.3% higher.
However, technology heavyweight Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 +1.59% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% fell 1.3% and LG Electronics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209966407/delayed KR:066570 -1.57% /zigman2/quotes/206354790/delayed LGEIY 0.00% declined 1.4% to weigh on the market.
In Australian trading, healthcare stocks were outperforming, as blood products group CSL Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206911412/delayed AU:CSL -1.09% gained 3.5% and hearing aid firm Cochlear Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203271998/delayed AU:COH +0.13% /zigman2/quotes/209002763/delayed CHEOY +1.23% advanced 0.9%.