ASIA MARKETS: With Major Asian Markets Closed, Australian Stocks Retreat

By Kenan MachadoFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea indexes closed for holidays

Stock prices increased early Wednesday in Asia, where some major markets are closed for holidays as traders await the latest statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve.

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But Australian stocks lagged behind for a second session as bank stocks continue to weigh on activity there.

The S&P/ASX 200 slid 0.6% after falling Tuesday to end a seven-session winning streak. An underwhelming fiscal first-half report from Australia and New Zealand Banking Group to start that sector's earnings season cast a cloud over the market there.

ANZ (ANZ.AU) declined 2.1% Tuesday and fell a further 2% Wednesday as analysts continued to weigh in on the report.

Credit Suisse said that while it is inclined to be more negative on the stock after the report, which included margin pressures amid heightened competition, there is a risk of being too downbeat given the potential of capital returns.

Banks make up a big weighting for the S&P/ASX 200. National Australia (NABZY) declined 1.9%, and Westpac (WBK) fell 1.3%.

The weakness among the lenders more than offset a partial rebound in oil-related stocks in Australia amid a bounce in crude prices in Asia on Wednesday. Futures rose nearly 1%, offsetting some of the decline seen overnight.

With markets in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea closed, Chinese equities started Wednesday's trading slightly lower, with the Shanghai and Shenzhen composite indexes down 0.2%.

Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets, said there are signs of investor fatigue. Indexes in the region have been hitting multiyear or all-time highs of late.

One market to watch Wednesday on that front is Taiwan. The Taiex hasn't closed above 10,000 since 2000, but has been testing that level since March.

Even as Apple's (AAPL) quarterly earnings report late Tuesday raised concern about iPhone demand, the Taiex rose 0.2% to 9963. Taiwan is home to a number of Apple suppliers, and their stocks have been rising strongly in recent months along with Apple's.

Elsewhere, Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 0.6% to hit 21-month highs, aided by optimism about bank earnings there, and the FTSE Bursa Malaysia Index gained 0.3%. It is at its best levels in two years.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 02, 2017 23:33 ET (03:33 GMT)