Asian Markets End Lacklustre

Rouhan Sharma

Asian markets ended lackluster Thursday even as data showed China's services sector grew at a slower pace in May from the previous month.

The Nikkei edged up 0.1% The Shanghai Composite gained 0.8% while the Hang Seng was down 0.2%. The Sensex added 0.7% while the All Ordinaries slipped 0.1%.

The HSBC China Services Purchasing Managers’ Index, PMI, fell to 50.7 in May from 51.4 in April, in contrast with the official services PMI released earlier this week which rose to 55.5, painting a more upbeat picture.

In other data, Australia reported its first monthly trade deficit in April since November last year. The seasonally adjusted trade deficit stood at A$122 million compared with expectations for a surplus of A$300 million. The data showed exports fell a percent from March while imports rose 2%.

Market players awaited cues from the European Central Bank’s policy meeting later today and a key jobs report in the U.S. later before the U.S. market open.

Stocks on the Move

Sapporo Holdings fell 6.6% after the beer-maker said it may have to pay additional liquor taxes of as much as 11.6 billion yen.

Softbank edged up 0.3% even as media reports said its U.S. unit Sprint is close to an agreement to acquire T-Mobile for about $32 billion.

Index heavyweight Sony ended down 0.3% while Fujitsu fell 2.1%. Sharp Corp. moved up 3.8% while Olympus gained 1.5%.

In Hong Kong, Evergrande Real Estate Group advanced 2.6% on reports e-commerce major Alibaba would buy a stake in the former’s football club.

Banks mostly overcame a weak open and ended on a positive note. ICBC was up 0.4% while AgBank gained 0.8%. Still, Bank of Communications ended flat while China Construction Bank edged 0.2% lower.

In Mumbai, the Sensex overcame a lower open and reversed intra-day losses to end higher as it regained the psychological 25,000 mark. Among the gainers, SSLT led the group, up 6.5%, followed by Hindalco, up 5.5%, and HUL, up 4.3%.

Ta Power, Tata Steel, and Tata Motors all closed up over 3% each.

However, banking stocks ended mostly lower.

Outside the Sensex, fertilizer companies’ shares gained on hopes the new government would clear the outstanding subsidy payments to the sector.

In Sydney, major miner BHP Billiton edged up 0.1% while Rio Tinto also moved up 0.4%. BHP Billiton confirmed it was cutting jobs in iron ore headquarters in Perth.

Fortescue Metals and Atlas Iron added 4.3% and 2.2% each, respectively, on the back of a gain in iron ore prices.

Oil Search climbed 1.8% after it increased full-year production guidance after the market close Wednesday.

Rare earths miner Lynas sank 6.1% after the company said its chief executive Eric Noyrez had left the company just 14 months into the job.