Australia’s Westpac Bank reports strong interim results

<p>Asian stocks were under pressure today with Bank of China and China Construction Bank among the biggest losers in the financial space on the Hong […]</p>

Asian stocks were under pressure today with Bank of China and China Construction Bank among the biggest losers in the financial space on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Both were down in excess of 3%.

The falls came as Singapore’s sovereign wealth investment company – Temasek Holdings – sold around US$2.48bn in shares in both companies. Many traders have interpreted the sale as a sign that earnings expectations might fall short in the near term.

The regional MSCI Asia Pacific index, when excluding Japan, was 0.2% lower. Japanese markets were closed today and tomorrow for public holidays.

Australia’s ASX200 index was 0.2% lower despite Westpac Bank reporting a better than expected banking report card. Westpac shares closed around 1% higher on the profit numbers while ANZ – which reported yesterday – fell on the back of broker downgrades today.

The retail space was mixed on the Australian market with home furnishings and electronics retailer Harvey Norman reporting disastrous comparable sales growth numbers.  Meanwhile, Super Retail Group – a collection of niche sports and adventure businesses – reported some solid comparable growth numbers.

In currencies, the Australian dollar was last trading at 1.0306 against the US dollar. A measure of China’s non-manufacturing industries fell to 56.1 in April from 58 the previous month. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion.

The Euro was slightly off its intra-day highs, last at 1.3143 against the dollar. The US dollar Yen pair was trading near the session high, last at 80.23.

Copper took a tumble last night but remains near high levels, last trading at around US$3.76/lb which is comfortably above the US$3.60-65/lb range we have been keeping an eye on.

Gold remains sluggish, last at US$1645/oz. Its flat performance is beginning to feel like déjà vu.

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