HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian stocks lost steam on Wednesday, with most leading indexes in retreat after US markets slumped on worries about surging oil prices and growing tensions over the Greek debt crisis.
Sydney tumbled 134.3 points, or 2.3 percent, to close at 5,692.2 after heavyweights Commonwealth Bank and Woolworths slumped on disappointing earnings updates.
South Korean shares lost 1.3 percent or 27.65 points to end at 2,104.58, and Hong Kong was trading 0.17 percent lower after see-sawing through the session. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.
Chinese shares bucked the trend, with Shanghai rising 1.35 percent by midday — recovering some ground after the index plunged more than four percent the previous session on worries over new share issues that tightened liquidity.
But most markets took their lead from Wall Street, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average Tuesday dropped 142.20 points or 0.79 percent to 17,928.20, weighed down by a rise in US oil prices above $60 a barrel.
“Markets are a little tired,” Wayne Wilbanks, chief investment officer at US-based Wilbanks, Smith & Thomas Asset Management told Bloomberg Television.
“Investors are starting to wake up to the reality that there s not a whole lot of growth currently in the market. China is slowing down. What we have there is huge monetary stimulus which is causing this stock market semi-bubble,” he said.
Analysts also cited a sharp rise in the US trade deficit in March and the growing rift between Greece and its creditors over the terms of a bailout. European stocks fell sharply Tuesday, with Germany s DAX 30 dropping 2.5 percent and France s CAC 40 losing 2.2 percent.
Oil prices extended gains in Asia to trade at 2015 highs as fresh tensions in oil producer Libya raised concerns about a supply disruption in the crude-rich Middle East, analysts said.
US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for June delivery gained 87 cents to $61.27, while Brent crude for June rose 63 cents to $68.15 in afternoon trade.
In currency markets, the US dollar softened against the euro following weak US trade data that raised questions about whether a planned interest rate rise by the Federal Reserve could be pushed back.
The euro bought $1.1232 in Singapore afternoon trade, up from $1.1185 in New York late Tuesday.
The dollar was changing hands at 119.90 yen from 119.87 and the euro was at 134.57 yen from 134.08.
Trading however was subdued with Japanese financial markets closed for a public holiday.
Gold fetched 1,196.42 against 1,188.70 late Tuesday.
In other markets:
— Taipei edged down 1.93 points, or 0.02 percent to 9,818.2
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co closed 0.34 percent higher at Tw$147.5 while Fubon Financial Holding shed 1.78 percent to Tw$66.3.
— Wellington fell 22.52 points or 0.39 percent to 5,765.27.
Market heavyweight Fletcher Building slipped 0.95 percent to NZ$8.30 and Spark was down 0.34 percent at NZ$2.96.