Saturday, 15 August 2015

Asian markets mostly fell yesterday, weighed down by jitters over the impact of China's yuan devaluation

Asian markets mostly fell yesterday, weighed down by jitters over the impact of China's yuan devaluation and the timing of a US interest rate rise, while a fall in oil dragged down energy stocks. The dollar dipped after advancing on solid US retail figures, which fuelled expectations the Federal Reserve will raise rates soon, while the euro fell on weak EU growth data. Tokyo ended down 0.37 percent, or 76.10 points, at 20,519.45 and Sydney lost 0.58 percent, or 31.37 points, to 5,356.50. Hong Kong and Shanghai were flat in afternoon trade, while benchmarks in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila also dipped. Seoul's financial markets were closed for a public holiday. China's Central Bank calmed markets when it said would not let the yuan slump, and on Friday set its rate against the dollar marginally higher than the previous day's close after three days of falls. The comments, and news it had intervened to support the Chinese currency, reassured nervous investors after a surprise devaluation of the yuan and two subsequent cuts roiled financial markets. But Asian shares gave up early gains on Friday and some Asia-Pacific currencies retreated, including the South Korean won and Philippine peso, as investors mulled the impact of a longer-term fall in the yuan. "The yuan devaluation and prospects of an impending rate increase by the Fed have created a very volatile market environment," Jonathan Ravelas, the chief market strategist at Manila-based BDO Unibank, told Bloomberg News. "That's made many investors risk adverse."Energy shares also took a hit as oil prices slid close to their low point for 2015 on signs a global glut of supplies will last into next year. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for September delivery dropped 24 cents to $41.99 in afternoon trade, the lowest price since March 2009. Brent crude for September, which expires yesterday, eased four cents to $49.18, remaining below $50 a barrel. The fall hit Chinese energy companies including CNOOC, which lost 2.59 percent to HK$9.76 in Hong Kong, while PetroChina sank 2.29 percent to HK$7.26. It's concerning that we can't really see the bottom of oil prices," Hitoshi Asaoka, Tokyo-based senior strategist at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co., told Bloomberg News. Asia got a muted lead from Wall Street, which finished little changed Thursday in choppy trade as retail sales bested expectations even as leading department stores reported lower profits. The sales figures added to expectations the US may raise interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, a move that had been tipped for as early as next month before the yuan devaluation. In Tokyo, the greenback changed hands at 124.38 yen, slightly down from 124.43 yen in US trading, while the euro traded at to $1.1146 from $1.1152. The 19-nation single currency fell to 138.62 yen, against 138.77 yen in New York. The euro exchanged hands at $1.1142 and 138.60 yen compared with $1.1152 and 138.77 yen in US trade after disappointing growth figures from the EU's top economies. Germany grew by 0.4 percent in the second quarter of 2015 while France's economy stagnated, data showed yesterday, raising fresh concerns about the bloc's economy.

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