HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets mostly fell Monday after China released data pointing to further weakness in its manufacturing sector, but Tokyo hit a seven-year high as the yen slipped against the dollar.
Energy firms took a hit for a second successive session while airlines climbed after OPEC’s decision to maintain oil output levels despite a supply glut and plunging prices.
Tokyo rallied 0.75 per cent to its best finish since July 2007 thanks to fresh yen weakness which helps its exporters. The Nikkei added 130.25 points to 17,590.10.
But Sydney sank 1.98 per cent, or 105.3 points, to close at 5,207.7 and Seoul fell 0.79 per cent, or 15.56 points, to 1,965.22.
Shanghai finished down 0.10 per cent, or 2.68 points, at 2,680.16 while Hong Kong ended 2.58 per cent lower, giving up 620.00 points to 23,367.45.
China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index of manufacturing eased to 50.3 last month, lower than the 50.8 seen in October and the weakest since March. A figure above 50 signals expansion in the sector, while anything below indicates contraction.
The figure is the latest pointing to a slowdown in the world’s number two economy and follows a surprise move by the central People’s Bank of China on November 21 to cut interest rates.
Adding to worries about the economy, the independent China Index Academy said Sunday that house prices in the country’s 100 major cities fell on a monthly basis for the seventh straight month in November.
Energy firms in the region fell again as oil prices sank to multi-year lows in reaction to Thursday’s announcement by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries that it would not cut production.
The cartel refused to heed calls for a reduction, even though prices have tumbled more than 30 per cent since June on the back of an oversupply caused by weak demand and a surge in output from the United States.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for January delivery plunged $2.10 in afternoon trade to $64.05, its lowest level since July 2009.
Brent crude for January sank $2.35 to $68.80, lows not seen since late 2009.
Among the biggest losers were Sydney-listed Santos, which fell almost 10 per cent, while BHP Billiton lost 5.3 per cent and Woodside shed 4.3 per cent. In Hong Kong, PetroChina was 4.6 per cent lower and CNOOC fell 4.6 per cent.
“Negative actions in the oil market are continuing today. Investors see crude as remaining vulnerable after last week’s OPEC announcement,” Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, told AFP.
“We have not yet seen any piece of news or development that could trigger a bottoming-out phase in oil prices,” he added.
However, airlines – whose biggest cost is fuel – climbed again. In Tokyo Japan Airlines added 4.2 per cent and rival ANA gained 4.0 per cent, while in Hong Kong Cathay Pacific rose 4.5 per cent and Korean Airlines in Seoul was up 6.0 per cent.
On foreign exchange markets the dollar rose to 118.70 yen, up from 118.65 yen in New York Friday.
The euro climbed to 147.66 yen from 147.64 yen, while it bought $1.2436 against $1.2443.
Wall Street ended mixed in truncated trade Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The Dow edged marginally higher to a new record and the Nasdaq added 0.09 per cent but the S&P 500 slid 0.25 per cent.
Gold was at $1,156.80 an ounce, compared with $1,182.86 late Friday.