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Asia report: Most markets lower ahead of US jobless claims

Thu 26 March 2020 09:16 | A A A

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(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia were mostly lower on Thursday, with Japanese stocks leading the market lower as investors held their breath ahead of initial jobless claims numbers out of the US, due laterin the global day.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 4.51% at 18,664.60, as the yen strengthened 1.46% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 109.59.

Of the major components on the benchmark index, automation specialist Fanuc was down 3.25%, fashion firm Fast Retailing slid 13.16%, and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group was 9.4% weaker.

Among Apple suppliers in Japan, Murata Manufacturing was down 4.97% and Taiyo Yuden was off 3.75%, after reports emerged that the California-based consumer technology giant was considering delaying the launch of its new iPhone by a matter of months.

The broader Topix index was 1.78% weaker by the end of trading in Tokyo, closing at 1,399.32.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was 0.6% weaker at 2,764.91, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite was off 0.8% at 1,701.15.

South Korea's Kospi was 1.09% lower at 1,686.24, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was off 0.74% at 23,352.34.

The blue-chip technology stocks were weaker in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics down 1.75% and chipmaker SK Hynix off 4.5%.

Hong Kong-listed Apple supplier AAC Technologies was ahead 4.85% by the close.

Markets participants in Asia were closing their wallets on Thursday after cheering equities in the previous session, which followed the passing of a $2trn stimulus package by lawmakers in Washington.

The initial jobless claims data, due later on Thursday, would give investors a clue as to how badly the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic was affecting the employment market stateside.

Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said Asian equities had failed to carry through Wall Street's second day of gains, with US futures also weaker.

"Markets are fretting over the US jobless claims numbers," he said.

"The estimate is anything from 0.8 million to 4 million, against a usual print around the 200k level."

Wilson said it would be the first real measure of just how far and how fast the world's largest economy had contracted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Investors are also fretting over the second wave of cases in Asia.

"Tokyo and Hong Kong are bracing for a second front in the war," he added.

Oil prices were lower at the end of the Asian day, with Brent crude last down 0.88% at $27.15 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate losing 2.55% to $23.88.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 went against the regional trend, rising 2.3% to end at 5,113.30, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 was also in the green, rising 3.97% to 9,632.47.

Both of the down under dollars were stronger on the greenback, with the Aussie last ahead 0.98% at AUD 1.6617, and the Kiwi advancing 0.68% to NZD 1.6975.

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