(RTTNews) – Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Monday as investors exercised caution amid rising political tensions in North East Asia and violence in the Middle East.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a ruling party meeting, called for “positive and offensive measures” to ensure security ahead of a year-end deadline he has set for denuclearisation talks with the United States.
The U.S. military carried out air strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday against Iran-backed militia group, while Turkey announced its plan to send forces to Libya to assist Al-Seraj government.
Chinese stocks rallied after the country’s central bank ordered lenders to adopt a new loan-pricing regime for all credit from next year, a move that could lower costs for some of the 152 trillion yuan (S$29.4 trillion) in yuan-denominated outstanding loans held by financial institutions and boost economic growth.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite index climbed 34.99 points, or 1.16 percent, to 3,040.02, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended up 0.33 percent at 28,319.39.
Japanese stocks fell sharply as caution prevailed ahead of the New Year holidays. Japanese financial markets will be closed from Tuesday through Friday.
The benchmark Nikkei dropped 181.10 points, or 0.76 percent, to 23,656.62 but ended 2019 with a gain of 18 percent on optimism about U.S.-China trade deal. The broader Topix index closed 0.68 percent lower at 1,721.36.
Casual clothing shop operator Adastria plunged 6.7 percent after its quarterly earnings and profit guidance for the year ending in February fell short of market expectations.
Australian markets edged lower as traders looked to square up positions ahead of the year-end.
The benchmark SP/ASX 200 index dropped 16.80 points, or 0.25 percent, to 6,804.90 while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 14.70 points, or 0.21 percent, at 6,921.60.
Miners paced the decliners, with BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group falling between 0.6 percent and 1.1 percent.
Banks ANZ and Commonwealth ended little changed with a positive bias and Westpac rose 0.3 percent while NAB eased 0.2 percent.
Energy stocks such as Woodside Petroleum and Santos finished marginally lower despite oil prices hitting three-month highs on Friday.
Shares of Sydney Airport slumped 4.3 percent and Transurban Group lost 2.6 percent on going ex-dividend.
Seoul stocks closed lower in the final trading session of 2019. The benchmark Kospi slid 6.54 points, or 0.3 percent, to end at 2,197.67 after official data showed industrial production in the country declined a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent month-on-month in November.
That follows the 1.7 percent drop in October. On a yearly basis, industrial production dipped 0.3 percent after dropping 2.5 percent in the previous month.
New Zealand shares gave up early gains to finish modestly lower. The benchmark SP/NZX 50 index ended down 45.67 points, or 0.39 percent, at 11,556.45. Electricity generation companies declined, with Meridian Energy down 3.1 percent and Mercury NZ declining 1.7 percent.
U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending mixed on Friday amid renewed optimism over a U.S.-China trade deal and positive reports on holiday shopping.
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the SP 500 inched up around 0.1 percent to hit new record closing highs, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 0.2 percent.