Asian stocks fall as BoJ stands pat, oil slides


HONG KONG: Asian stocks retreated on Tuesday, with Tokyo sinking after the Bank of Japan (BoJ) held fire on fresh monetary stimulus, while energy companies slid following a drop in oil prices.

The Japanese central bank kept its record monetary stimulus unchanged as policymakers digested the impact of the negative interest rates announced in January.

The decision was widely expected, although analysts predict Governor Haruhiko Kuroda and his team will unleash more monetary firepower in the coming months to kick-start Japan’s weak economy.

Tokyo shares closed down 0.68 percent after the announcement, while the yen strengthened against its major peers.

“The BoJ will keep a wait-and-see stance for a while,” Yasuhide Yajima, chief economist at NLI Research Institute, told Bloomberg News.

“I expect further easing in July, when prices data will clearly show they’re off target.”

Investors were closely watching the BoJ as concerns mount that central banks are running out of ammunition to boost the sagging world economy.

Last week the European Central Bank unveiled dramatic new stimulus measures, while US Federal Reserve officials later Tuesday begin a meeting that will be closely watched for clues on whether it will delay raising interest rates.

European stocks opened lower on Tuesday, with London down 0.6 percent, Frankurt losing 0.5 percent and Paris dropping 0.7 percent in early deals.

Financial markets have staged a comeback from their worst start to the year in living memory, but investors are still nervous about signs of weak global growth—particularly in number two economy China.

Chinese stocks fell more than one percent early Tuesday as news the central bank fixed the yuan lower against the dollar heightened concerns, after poor economic data was released over the weekend.

Shanghai retraced earlier losses to close up 0.17 percent—dealers cited speculation of state-backed intervention in the market—but Hong Kong lost 0.72 percent. Seoul closed down 0.12 percent.

Energy stocks tumble
Sydney ended down 1.43 percent, hit by a slump in energy companies after oil prices stumbled. Commodity currencies like the Australian dollar and Malaysian ringgit weakened.

Energy shares across Asia took a battering as crude prices extended heavy losses from the previous session, with hopes fading that major producers would stop pumping to ease a supply glut.

US oil benchmark WTI was down 76 cents to $36.42 a barrel and Brent crude lost 77 cents to $38.76, after briefly breaking above $40 a barrel last week for the first time this year.

Australia’s Sundance Energy collapsed almost 17 percent, while CNOOC lost 2.75 percent and Sinopec dropped 1.84 percent in Hong Kong.

Russia on Monday said a meeting to discuss an output freeze had been pushed back to next month, while news that Iran would not temper production until it reaches four million barrels per day (bpd) weighed on crude.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) estimated Iran pumped 3.1 million bpd of crude in February, up from 2.9 million in January.

Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG Markets in Sydney, predicted oil prices would average around $35 a barrel in the second quarter.



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