Tokyo leads Asian stocks lower in light holiday trade

China: Tokyo stocks drifted lower on Monday in thin holiday trade, pulling down markets in China and South Korea, with the majority closed for the Easter holiday.

After rising in early trade, Tokyo ended down 0.3 percent as the Bank of Japan’s closely watched “Tankan” business confidence survey slipped after five straight quarters of growth.

Selling was mainly driven by profit-taking, analysts said, with investors squaring positions before major overseas markets open after Easter.

“All eyes are on the opening in New York following the holidays,” said Hikaru Sato, senior technical analyst at Daiwa Securities.

With no direction from Wall Street or Europe, Tokyo dragged down other Asian markets.

Shanghai was down 0.2 percent as traders digested new tariffs on US imports.

The government in Beijing imposed new tariffs on 128 US imports worth $3 billion, including fruits and pork, in retaliation for US duties on steel and aluminium, fanning fears of a trade war.

“New tariffs by China on US imports stoked worries over a new round of US-China trade frictions,” said Zhang Gang, an analyst with Central China Securities.

Seoul edged slightly lower, dropping 0.1 percent.

The one bright spot was Manila, which closed 0.8 percent higher due to late bargain-hunting.

Volumes in Asian trade were light however, with financial markets in Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong all closed for public holidays.

The outlook for equities will be determined by US jobs data to be released on Friday, brokers said.

Oil prices also rose in Asian trade following a reported drop in US rig drilling activity.

Energy markets were reacting to data from oil services firm Baker Hughes released last Thursday, which showed US rigs fell by seven to 797.

Rig counts are a closely-watched indicator of drilling activity and future production in the United States.

“Oil was building up in the morning, I think this is primarily due to the spillover effect from Thursday when Baker Hughes released its report on a decrease in operational rigs,” Benjamin Lu of Phillip Futures Singapore told AFP.

Forex markets were largely stable, again in thin holiday trade, with all eyes on speeches by key monetary policy makers, including Fed governor Lael Brainard, and the US jobs report.

Key figures around 0730 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.3 percent at 21,388.58 (close)

Hong Kong – CLOSED

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.18 percent at 3,163.18

Dollar/yen: UP at 106.29 yen from 106.35 at 0230 GMT

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.2328 from $1.2326 at 0230 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.4060 from $1.4054 at 0230 GMT

Oil – West Texas Intermediate: UP 18 cents from $64.91 per barrel on Friday

Oil – Brent North Sea: UP 22 cents from $69.35 on Friday (new contract)

New York – Dow: UP 1.1 percent at 24,103.11 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,056.61 (close)