By Marketwatch and Associated Press
Shares were lower in most markets open in Asia, with much of the region taking a break for the Lunar New Year.
Shares edged lower in Japan on Tuesday but surged 2.1% in Australia following a report on banking malpractices that was less severe than anticipated. The country’s central bank also kept its cash rate unchanged.
The weak showing followed a day of gains on Wall Street as buying of technology companies outweighed losses in health care, materials and utilities stocks.
Markets in mainland China are closed for the week for new year festivities.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +2.41% was flat after giving up early gains. Yahoo Japan /zigman2/quotes/207641152/delayed JP:4689 +3.08% leapt after a positive earnings report, while Panasonic /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 +0.99% fell after cutting its annual profit forecast.
Australia’s S&P ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.74% added 2% as the Reserve Bank of Australia kept its rate steady at 1.5%, though RBA Governor Philip Lowe said global risks have increased. He said the country’s growth remained steady, though, at around 3% this year.
Three of Australia’s largest banks could face prosecution following the yearlong investigation into widespread misconduct that recommended tougher oversight and better consumer safeguards. Commissioner Kenneth Hayne referred 24 incidents of misconduct to regulators for further investigation and possible civil or criminal charges against executives and corporations, including all major banks except Westpac Banking Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203084975/delayed AU:WBC +1.55% The banks facing potential charges are Commonwealth Bank /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA +3.13% , ANZ Banking Group /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ +1.60% and National Australian Bank /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +2.03% . The big four banks gained more than $20 billion in value after relieved investors welcomed the recommendations.
On Wall Street, the market got off to a weak start Monday after the government reported that factory orders fell in November, but by midday major indexes had turned higher as attention turned to strong corporate earnings. The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.48% rose 0.7% to 2,724.87 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -1.50% climbed 0.7% to 25,239.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP +0.56% gained 1.2% to 7,347.54
The government report showed U.S. factory orders declined 0.6 percent in November, mainly due to lower demand for machinery and electrical equipment. That surprised economists, who had forecast a slight increase. The report is one of many that were delayed by a monthlong government shutdown. The long list of missing indicators makes it difficult to gauge the health of the economy and has prompted a cautious outlook from analysts.
U.S. crude gained 25 cents to $54.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 1.3 percent to settle at $54.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude , used to price international oils, also added 25 cents to $62.76 per barrel. It slipped 0.4 percent to close at $62.51 per barrel in London. The lower prices follow a round of supply cuts by OPEC in January and more U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0066% strengthened to 109.92 yen from 109.89 yen on Monday.