Asian equities drift lower, sentiment falters

Markets across the Asia-Pacific region are trading lower, with Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 Average down 0.6 per cent, while Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng each fell 0.1 per cent.

Over the weekend the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) made further territorial gains in the northwest, after capturing Mosul last week, FTAdviser sister publication FastFT reports.

The US moved an aircraft carrier into the Gulf on Saturday as President Barack Obama weighs whether to launch airstrikes to try to halt the advances of the Sunni insurgents.

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The turmoil has helped to lift the price of gold $4.70 on Monday, a fifth straight gain, to $1,281.75 per ounce.

In Japan, the decline in the Nikkei puts the average on track to break a four-week trend of gains.

On Friday, the benchmark stock average jumped 0.8 per cent, allowing the average to narrowly escape a weekly loss, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan will begin to lower its corporate tax rate next year and reduce it by 20-45 per cent over “several years.”

“Lowering the corporation tax rate has been one of the biggest areas of market attention within the government’s growth strategies,” said analysts at Nomura.

Mr Abe hasn’t released a specific timetable however, thus limiting the effect on the stock market.

Down under, Echo Entertainment shares rose more than 10 per cent to an 11 month high after the casino operator said its cost cutting programme would help lift full year earnings by A$19-24m.

Mainland China markets are avoiding losses elsewhere, after Premier Li Keqiang pledged in Britain’s The Times newspaper that China will meet its 7.5 per cent GDP target this year.

“Despite considerable downward pressure, China’s economy is moving on a steady course,” he wrote in an Op-Ed.

Many economists see the economy slowing below that rate, so pledges from Beijing generate speculation of further stimulus measures.

The most recent speculation caused copper futures traded in Shanghai to rise 1 per cent to Rmb48,000 ($7,730) per tonne. Copper is a key commodity used as collateral to obtain loans in China.

The Shanghai Composite rose 0.2 per cent.