Thursday, May 22, 2008

Crude Oil Steadies at Record Depress Asian Market Advance

Asian shares traded mostly lower, with Japanese and Australian shares reversed earlier losses to end higher, shrugging off a slump in global equity markets.

The declines were in line with a weaker finish on Wall Street yesterday, after crude-oil prices surged above $133 a barrel, alarming investors worried about the impact upon consumers and the overall economy. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 227 points to end at 12,601 with all it 30 components falling. The S&P 500 fell 22.69 points to 1,390. The Nasdaq Composite fell 43.9 points to 2,448.

Front-month crude oil futures rocketed to $135.04 a barrel in electronic trading, before easing to $134.75 at midday in Tokyo, up $1.59. Wednesday, the July contract closed at $133.17 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, up $4.19, or 3.3%.

The Nikkei closed 0.4% higher at 13,978.46, reversing losses that had seen the benchmark 1.2% lower at midday. The Topix index ended 0.7% higher at 1,379.67.

Australia`s S&P ASX 200 was up by 0.1% at 5,826.90. South Korea`s Kospi traded a little lower by 0.7% at 1,835.42.

Hong Kong`s Hang Seng Index was down 1.6% at 25,0.43.12. The Hong Kong China Enterprises Index, or mainland-incorporated shares listed in Hong Kong, eased 2.2% to 13,820.84.

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled by 1.7% to 3,485.63. Meanwhile, China`s crude oil imports for the January to April period climbed 10% from a year earlier to 448.3 million barrels. Imports for the month of April fell 4% to 106.80 million barrels, the bureau said.

In other regional action, Taiwan`s Weighted Price Index fell 0.1% to 9,008.03 while Singapore`s Straits Times Index was down 1.1%. Indonesia`s Jakarta Composite Index was up by 0.4% to 2,503.95, Malaysia`s KLSE Composite Index was down 0.3% to 1,277.57.

In currencies, the U.S. dollar was quoted a 104.35-yen, compared to 104.73 yen in late New York trading Tuesday.

European opened on a weaker note, with autos and airlines under pressure again as light sweet crude showed no sign of breaking its record-breaking run.

Nationally, the U.K. FTSE 100 index fell 0.5% to 6,168.40, the German DAX 30 index declined 0.8% to 6,983.15 - falling through the 7,000 mark for the first time since 9 May 9 and the French CAC-40 index also broke through a key level. The French index fell 1% to trade below 5,000 at 4.979.63

Meanwhile, U.K`s retail sales volumes fell 0.2% on the month in April, but were up 4.2% on the year. The annual growth in retail spending was the lowest since December 2007.

March`s data was revised up to show a monthly decline of 0.2%, compared with the 0.4% fall originally reported. The annual growth rate was revised up to 4.7% in March from 4.6%.

In April, food store sales fell 1.0% on the month, the biggest drop since August 2006. Meanwhile sales in non-food stores increased 0.2% on the month. Within that sector, sales in non-specialized stores were up 2.5% on the month.

The slowdown in annual retail sales growth in April was led by a drop in textile, clothing and footwear stores, in which sales declined 1.5% - the biggest drop since October 1998. However, it was partly explained by the fact that this year saw the coldest April since 2001.

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