Asia shares lower, most markets closed for Lunar New Year

Japan’s Nikkei 225 was flat at 20,880.53 and India’s Sensex edged down less than 0.1 percent to 36,566.21


BANGKOK: Shares are lower in most markets open in Asia with much of the region taking a break for the Lunar New Year.

Shares edged lower in Japan and India on Tuesday but surged 2.1 percent in Australia following a report on banking malpractices that was less severe than anticipated.

The weak showing followed a day of gains on Wall Street as buying of technology companies outweighed losses in health care, materials and utilities stocks.

Markets in mainland China are closed for the week for new year festivities.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 was flat at 20,880.53 and India’s Sensex edged down less than 0.1 percent to 36,566.21. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 added 2.1 percent to 6,017.20. Thailand’s benchmark fell 0.4 percent. Other markets were closed.

WALL STREET: The market got off to a weak start Monday after the government reported that factory orders fell in November, but by midday, major indexes had turned higher as attention turned to strong corporate earnings. The S&P 500 index rose 0.7 percent to 2,724.87 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.7 percent to 25,239.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite gained 1.2 percent to 7,347.54, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 15.48 points, or 1 percent, to 1,517.54.

AUSTRALIA BANKS: Three of Australia’s largest banks could face prosecution following the yearlong investigation into widespread misconduct that recommended tougher oversight and better consumer safeguards. Commissioner Kenneth Hayne referred 24 incidents of misconduct to regulators for further investigation and possible civil or criminal charges against executives and corporations, including all major banks except Westpac Banking Corp. The banks facing potential charges are Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking Group and National Australian Bank. The big four banks gained more than $20 billion in value after relieved investors welcomed the recommendations.

FACTORY ORDERS: The government report showed U.S. factory orders declined 0.6 percent in November, mainly due to lower demand for machinery and electrical equipment. That surprised economists, who had forecast a slight increase. The report is one of many that were delayed by a monthlong government shutdown. The long list of missing indicators makes it difficult to gauge the health of the economy and has prompted a cautious outlook from analysts.

ENERGY: U.S. crude gained 25 cents to $54.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 1.3 percent to settle at $54.56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, also added 25 cents to $62.76 per barrel. It slipped 0.4 percent to close at $62.51 per barrel in London. The lower prices follow a round of supply cuts by OPEC in January and more U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

CURRENCIES: The dollar strengthened to 109.92 yen from 109.89 yen on Monday. The euro weakened versus the dollar to $1.1433 from $1.1438.