Asia stocks mixed as region’s heavy hitters deal with issues overseas

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Asian equities put in a mixed performance on Thursday morning as local companies dealt with problems abroad and regional sovereign bonds gained across the board.

Asian equities appeared to be acting of their own accord rather than currency movements or a lacklustre performance from Wall Street, where the S&P 500 closed Wednesday up just 0.1 per cent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was off 0.3 per cent, led lower by a 1.1 per cent drop in materials stocks. Shares in miner BHP Billiton were down 1.8 per cent as workers at the company’s Chilean copper mine, the world’s largest, prepared for a strike over wages.

Tokyo’s broad Topix index was down 0.4 per cent in morning trade, led lower by a 0.9 per cent drop in the consumer discretionary segment. Shares in Toyota Motor were down 1.7 per cent after the company revealed on Wednesday sales in China had fallen almost 19 per cent from a year prior in January. The Nikkei 225 index was also down 0.3 per cent.

In Hong Kong the Hang Seng index was up 0.4 per cent in early trading, while in China the Shanghai and Shenzhen Composite indices were up 0.2 and 0.3 per cent, respectively.

The pound was off 0.2 per cent against the dollar at $1.2508 in Asia morning trade after spending most of Wednesday largely unmoved by word that UK members of parliament had voted to begin the formal process of leaving the EU by approving the triggering of Article 50.

The Australian dollar was down 0.3 per cent at $0.7620 after the Housing Industry Association revealed new private home sales rose 0.2 per cent in December after growing over 6 per cent a month earlier.

Japan’s yen shed 0.2 per cent against the dollar to ¥112.19, while China’s renminbi was 0.1 per cent stronger at Rmb 6.8649 after the central bank set the dollar trading band for the currency stronger on Thursday morning.

Sovereign bonds in the region were making solid gains in contrast with other markets’ mixed performance.

Yield, which move inversely to price, on 10-year Australian government bonds fell 6 basis points to 2.634 per cent. Yield on New Zealand’s 10-year notes was 8bp lower at 3.152 per cent.

Japan’s 10-year government bonds saw yield drop 1bp to 0.075 per cent while that for South Korean 10-year notes fell 2bp to 2.092 per cent.

10-year US Treasuries’ yield was virtually flat at 2.3381 per cent.

Oil prices were on the mend in Asia morning trade after oversupply concerns prompted a dip the day prior. Brent crude, the international marker, was up 0.3 per cent at $55.27 a barrel affter falling as much as 1.1 per cent on Wednesday. West Texas Intermediate, the US marker, was up by the same amount at $52.48 per barrel after falling as much as 1.8 per cent the previous day.

The price of gold was off 0.2 per cent at $1,239.80 per ounce.

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