ASIA MARKETS: Asia-Pacific Markets Decline, Led By Pullback For Australia

By Kenan Machado Features Dow Jones Newswires

Nikkei firms but ends flat as yen weakens; airlines weigh on Kospi

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Global equity markets were lower in Asia on Tuesday, as a pullback in commodity shares dragged Australia's benchmark index lower and tighter liquidity weighed on Chinese stocks.

Commodity stocks have been key to the recent rebound for Australia's underperforming equities market, helping the S&P/ASX 200 hit 10-year highs earlier this month, but profit-taking pressure has been building.

The stock index closed down by 0.9%, with the energy sector retreating around 2.5%, even though oil prices barely budged overnight. The sector had jumped nearly 15% in barely a month.

Utilities stocks in Australia were also weaker, down 1.6% after recently hitting their best levels since midyear, while heavyweight miners BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) and Rio Tinto (RIO) were also lower after recently hitting multiyear highs.

"The Australian market has had an uncommon run now. In these circumstances it is reasonable to expect some profit-taking," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

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Tuesday's pullback came after another member of Australia's parliament resigned over dual-citizenship status. The crisis tipped the conservative government toward the minority in the lower house of parliament last week, after two lawmakers were disqualified and forced to re-contest their seats.

Meanwhile, Chinese shares were also under pressure, with the Shanghai stock benchmark down 0.5%, after logging a six-session winning streak and closing at a fresh 22-month high on Monday.

Data late Monday showed that growth in M2, the broadest measure of money supply in China, was lower-than-expected at 8.8% in October, the weakest increase on record. In Shenzhen , the stock benchmark was off nearly 1%, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1%.

"Stocks there have a direct correlation with liquidity," said Alexander Lee, chief investment officer at Nimbus Capital Group. He expects declines in stocks to be temporary, though, as the squeeze on liquidity could help reduce overcapacity, ultimately helping boost earnings.

Data released Tuesday also showed slower industrial output and fixed-asset investment growth in China in October.

"At the end of the day, China still intends to strike a balance between growth, debt and leveraging," said Commerzbank economist Zhou Hao.

In South Korea, the Kospi was down 0.2%, led by declines in tourism-related shares such as Korean Air Lines (003490.SE) and Asiana Airlines (020560.SE) . The stocks are sensitive to rising tensions with North Korea. On Monday, a North Korean soldier defected to the South by crossing the Demilitarized Zone. He was injured after being shot by fellow North Korean soldiers.

Bucking the region's declines, Japan's Nikkei Stock Average ended flat after trading higher early in the day, lifted by gains in the U.S. dollar against the yen, which supported export-related stocks.

The dollar was last at Yen113.62, up from Yen113.47 before the local stock market closed Monday. The rebound came after the benchmark index fell 1.3% to end lower for the fourth consecutive session on Monday, its largest four-day point decline since Nov. 9 last year.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 14, 2017 08:14 ET (13:14 GMT)