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World Market And Commodity News
Asia stocks mostly down, energy firms hit
Published :Friday, 20 May, 2016,  Time : 12:00 AM  View Count : 21
HONG KONG, May 19: Asia stocks were mostly down Thursday, with energy and commodity firms taking a beating as investors digested news that an imminent Federal Reserve interest rate hike could be on the cards.
The declines followed a weak lead from Wall Street after minutes from the Federal Reserve's April policy meeting suggested an interest rate hike in June was much more likely than the market believed. Hong Kong ended 0.7 per cent lower, while Sydney closed 0.6 per cent down and Seoul dropped 0.5 per cent. Shanghai stocks ended flat.
"There is this enormous policy uncertainty," Randal Jenneke, Sydney-based fund manager at T. Rowe Price Group Inc. told Bloomberg News. 
"The Fed has changed the goal posts so many times, everyone is confused. No one knows when they're going to raise rates and no one knows what's going to be the key thing to trigger the decision." Tokyo also closed flat, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 index ticking up 0.01 per cent.
Shares had opened firmly higher, with exporters lifted after the dollar surged against the yen, rising above the 110-level for the first time since the Bank of Japan surprised markets on April 28 by holding off fresh stimulus.
A weaker yen is good for Japan's exporting giants, such as Toyota and Sony, as it boosts their profitability and tends to stoke buying of their shares.
The US unit fetched 110.22 yen late afternoon Thursday against 110.20 yen Wednesday in New York.
News that a US interest rate hike was increasingly likely put particular pressure on energy and commodity shares, as oil prices slumped in response to the greenback's surge. A stronger dollar puts downward pressure on oil, which is traded in the US currency, as it makes crude more expensive for buyers holding other currencies.
US benchmark West Texas Interme diate was down 1.8 per cent to $47.31 and Brent crude dropped 1.98 per cent to $47.96. Prices had hit fresh 2016 highs on Wednesday due in part to production outages resulting from wildfires around the Canadian oil sands hub of Fort McMurray. Sydney-listed mining giant BHP Billiton slumped 3.7 per cent Thursday, Rio Tinto dived 3.3 per cent and Woodside Petroleum slid 1.2 per cent.
In Hong Kong, China's CNOOC lost 1.4 per cent and PetroChina slumped 1.7 per cent. Tokyo-listed Inpex sank 5.9 per cent. Taipei also tumbled, with materials firms among the worst hit. Formosa Chemicals & Fibre plunged 5.0 per cent and China Steel dived 1.8 per cent.
Some banking-linked equities rose, chasing sharp gains among financial firms in US and European markets.

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