Asian Markets Lower, New Zealand Bucks Trend

Asian stock markets, with the exception of New Zealand, are lower on Thursday following the sharp losses overnight on Wall Street as weak U.S. economic data and corporate earnings results pointed to the damaging economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has topped more than 2 million, while more than 133,000 deaths related to the pandemic have also been reported.

The Australian market is extending losses from the previous session following the negative cues from Wall Street. However, the market has trimmed losses following the release of better-than-expected Australian jobs data for March.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 81.00 points or 1.48 percent to 5,385.70, after falling to a low of 5,345.00 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 85.10 points or 1.54 percent to 5,438.20. Australian stocks closed lower on Wednesday.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent, while Commonwealth Bank is losing almost 3 percent.

In the oil sector, Santos is falling almost 4 percent, Woodside Petroleum is lower by almost 2 percent and Oil Search is down 0.4 percent after crude oil prices plummeted to 18-year lows overnight.

Woodside Petroleum reported a more than 20 percent decrease in first-quarter sales revenue, reflecting reduced trading activity as well as lower unit prices for its oil and gas output.

In the mining space, BHP is losing almost 4 percent, Fortescue Metals is lower by more than 2 percent and Rio Tinto is declining almost 2 percent.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining is lower by more than 1 percent and Newcrest Mining is declining almost 1 percent after safe-haven gold prices fell to a one-week low overnight.

Crown Resorts has stood down 11,500 employees, or about 95 percent of its workforce, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but said it will pay the interim dividend to shareholders. The gaming company’s shares are losing almost 1 percent.

In economic news, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.2 percent in March. That was up from 5.1 percent in February, but it beat expectations for 5.4 percent.

The Australian economy added 5,900 jobs last month after collecting 26,700 jobs in February, but that was far better than forecasts that suggested a loss of 30,000 jobs due to the impact of the Covid-19 virus.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Thursday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6306, down from $0.6354 on Wednesday.

The Japanese market is losing following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is declining 277.99 points or 1.42 percent to 19,272.10, after touching a low of 19,154.41 in early trades. Japanese shares closed lower on Wednesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is edging up 0.1 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining more than 1 percent.

The major exporters are lower despite a weaker yen. Panasonic is lower by almost 4 percent, Mitsubishi Electric is losing more than 3 percent, Canon is declining more than 2 percent and Sony is down more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is lower by more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is down more than 1 percent. Among automakers, Honda is losing almost 4 percent and Toyota is declining more than 2 percent.

In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is edging up 0.1 percent and Inpex is down 0.3 percent after crude oil prices plummeted to over 18-year lows overnight.

Among the worst performers, Mitsui E&S Holdings is losing more than 6 percent and Sumitomo Realty & Development is falling by almost 6 percent. Shinsei Bank and Fukuoka Financial are lower by more than 5 percent each.

On the economic front, Japan will provide March figures for condominium sales today.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 107 yen-range on Thursday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia is losing 2 percent and Hong Kong is declining almost 1 percent, while Shanghai, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and Singapore are also lower. Bucking the trend, New Zealand is higher.

On Wall Street, stocks climbed off their worst levels, but still closed sharply lower on Wednesday as the latest earnings and economic news reminded investors of the devastating economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Before the start of trading, financial giants Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup all reported sharply lower first quarter earnings. Adding to the negative sentiment, the Commerce Department released a report showing a sharp decline in U.S. retail sales in the month of March.

The Dow plunged 445.41 points or 1.9 percent to 23,504.35, the Nasdaq tumbled 122.56 points or 1.4 percent to 8,393.18 and the S&P 500 plummeted 62.70 points or 2.2 percent to 2,783.36.

The major European markets also showed significant moves to the downside on Wednesday. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index plummeted by 3.3 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX plunged by 3.8 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures plummeted to over 18-year lows on Wednesday as mounting worries about excess supply and concerns over imminent drop in energy demand took a toll on the commodity. WTI crude for May delivery slipped $0.24 or 1.2 percent to $19.87 a barrel.

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