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Asia report: Markets lose steam after US retail sales

Fri 15 February 2019 10:47 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia ended the week on a sour note, taking their lead from Wall Street, which was on the back foot overnight after a serious decline in American retail sales.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 1.13% to 20,900.63, as the yen strengthened 0.03% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 110.45.

Technology conglomerate SoftBank Group was one of the big losers in Tokyo, with its shares finishing the day 4.4% below the waterline.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was 1.37% lower at 2,682.39, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite slipped 0.67% to 1,389.47.

Movements in China were also on the back of fresh inflation data for January, with official price statistics coming in 1.7% higher than the same month last year.

That was short of expectations, with a Reuters poll picking a reading of 1.9%.

South Korea's Kospi was 1.34% lower at 2,196.09, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was off 1.87% at 27,900.84.

The blue-chip technology stocks were weaker in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics down 3.05% and SK Hynix off 4.65%.

Sentiment was soured early in the Asian day by US retail sales data form December, which fell by 1.2%, making for the largest monthly drop since 2009.

Excluding gasoline sales, the Commerce Department said retail sales were still 0.9% lower for the month.

Analysts were surprised by the result, with National Australia Bank senior economist David de Garis calling it "unbelievable and shocking", adding that many were "dumbfounded" by the data.

"[This could] open a risk the US economy might be slowing faster than commonly expected," he wrote.

Oil prices were higher as the region clocked off for the week, with Brent crude last up 0.45% at $64.86, and West Texas Intermediate rising 0.49% to $54.68.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 managed to eke out gains of 0.11% to settle at 6,066.10, as the energy sector rose 0.76% in Sydney.

Of the major oil players in the sunburnt country, Beach Energy was up 2.17%, Santos added 0.75%, and Woodside Petroleum was ahead 1.49%.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 was down 0.4% at 9,245.65, with major exporters once again taking a hit.

Specialist dairy producer A2 Milk was off 3.8%, while medical equipment firm Fisher & Paykel Healthcare was 1.4% lower.

The down under dollars were a mixed picture, with the Aussie last 0.03% weaker on the greenback at AUD 1.4078, while the Kiwi strengthened 0.21% to NZD 1.4595.

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