Asian markets cautious ahead of major corporate earnings

HONG KONG (AFP) – Stocks were mixed in Asian trade yesterday as investors move cautiously ahead of a deluge of corporate results later in the week.

With all markets now open again after an extended Easter break, many fluctuated in morning trade but rallied by the afternoon.

Tokyo stocks ended marginally up for a third straight session, with profit-taking before 10 days of holidays in Japan weighing on the market.

Seoul, Sydney and Mumbai gained while Shanghai and Singapore were down.

Investors are waiting for a number of major earnings releases expected this week, including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Exxon Mobil and auto maker Tesla.

An investor monitors prices at a stock brokerage in Beijing. – AP

“Some of the world’s biggest technology companies are reporting earnings this week as well as a raft of the big European banks,” Chief Operating Officer at Rakuten Securities Australia Nick Twidale said in a note to clients.

“Investors will be hoping for some better-than-expected results from both groups to keep the topside momentum in global equities, however if the data starts to show a significant slowing across these key industries then expect both stocks and risk trades to start to come under some heavy pressure.”

Aerospace giant Boeing will report earnings today for the first time since a deadly March 10 plane crash plunged the company into crisis mode.

Financial analysts have already slashed their 2019 profit forecasts after Boeing announced earlier in April it was cutting its monthly production of the 737 by about 20 per cent.

In early morning trade in Europe, London climbed while Frankfurt and Paris fell slightly.

Separately, Sri Lankan stocks plunged by 2.6 per cent – their biggest drop in four years – as the Colombo Stock Exchange reopened for trading after terror attacks on Easter Sunday killed more than 300 people.

While equity traders were generally cautious, oil prices continued their rally on yesterday, jumping to near six-month highs after the US cracked down on Iranian oil exports.

The White House announced on Monday it was calling an end to six-month waivers that had exempted countries from unilateral United States (US) sanctions on Iranian oil exports.

Starting in May, these countries – China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Italy and Greece – would face sanctions if they continue to buy oil from Iran.

“This points to a big drop in the supply side, which boosts the commodity’s price. Iran’s daily oil output amounts to 1.3 million barrels, according to latest figures in end March,” said market analyst at CMC Markets Singapore Margaret Yang Yan.

But she said that “the sustainability of oil’s rally depends on Saudi and other OPEC members’ actions to increase oil supply in the month to come.”

Head of trading and market strategy at SPI Asset Management Stephen Innes said rising prices meant USD80 a barrel was now a “possibility”.

“Oil quickly repriced higher on fears that markets could face an immediate supply crunch, adding more pressure to the already tenuous global supply squeeze,” said Innes.

Energy and oil-linked shares also climbed, with Tokyo-listed crude developer INPEX rallying 2.8 per cent and oil refiner JXTG up 1.1 per cent.