ASIA MARKETS: Nikkei Slips Below 20,000, Aussie Stocks Also Fall On Weak Oil Prices

By Lucy CraymerFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

South Korea's Kospi bucks trend with 0.6% gain

Australian and Japanese stocks again lagged behind other Asian equities on Friday, with oil's sharp overnight pullback putting pressure on those equities.

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Underperformance has become the norm of late, with Japan's Nikkei Stock Average stalling just below 20,000, a level it hasn't reached since December 2015, and Australian equities hit by concerns about banks in the wake of a planned new tax on the country's biggest lenders.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.6% amid broad weakness in commodities-focused companies, putting the index's May retreat at 3%. BHP Billiton (BHP.AU) , Woodside Petroleum (WPL.AU) and Fortescue Metals (FMG.AU) fell more than 2%.

The Nikkei was off 0.5%. The index hit session lows as afternoon trading began and a stronger yen weighed on Japanese stocks; the dollar has been sliding toward Yen111.50.

Oil fell nearly 5% overnight ( even after the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries did what many expected in extending its continuing production-cut deal by nine months. But the reductions won't be deepened, which some thought was possible and helped fuel some of crude's most-recent gains.

"It was a case of buy the rumor and sell the fact," said Stuart Ive, private client manager at OM Financial in Wellington, New Zealand. He added, "What started as a trickle soon turned into an avalanche of selling."

Oil prices dropped further in midday Asian trading Friday. July Brent futures were recently down 0.5% at $51.21 a barrel. Despite the declines, oil is only back to levels seen in mid-May.

Commodity currencies were also under pressure in Asia following the weakness in assets like oil, iron ore and steel. Against the U.S. dollar, the Australian dollar fell 0.4%, while the New Zealand dollar was down 0.2%.

Meanwhile, stocks in Asia saw some support from overnight gains in U.S. consumer-discretionary names. Leading the way was electronics retailer Best Buy's (BBY) 21% post-earnings pop, that stock's largest since 2001. The S&P 500 on Thursday notched its 19th record closing high of the year ( For all of 2016, there were 18.

Read:Best Buy is capitalizing on troubles at Sears and HHGregg in one particular category (

Samsung (005930.SE) rose 1.1% in Asian trading, helping lead Korea's Kospi Composite Index deeper into record territory. It was recently up 0.6%, putting its May climb near 7%. Samsung's 28% surge to start 2017 has been a big factor in Korea's stock-market outperformance.

Indexes in China and Hong Kong were little changed, while India's Sensex hit fresh record highs and Taiwan's Taiex--weighted heavily with companies that help make products and parts in the consumer-electronics space--slipped 0.3%, falling from its best levels since 2000.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 26, 2017 02:04 ET (06:04 GMT)