Shares in Asia mostly declined on the first trading day of 2019, following a turbulent 2018, despite early gains in US stock futures.
South Korea’s Kospi fell nearly 0.6% in morning session, as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics shed 0.13%, while chipmaker SK Hynix rose 0.66%. Nikkei was closed for a holiday.
The ASX 200 in Australia fell into negative territory, trading down by about 0.6%, following an earlier recovery. The heavily weighted financial subindex fell more than 1.1%, as shares of the so-called Big Four banks in Australia declined. Australia and New Zealand Banking Group traded down by 1.72%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia slipped around 1%, Westpac declined by 1.64% and National Australia Bank shed 1.54%.
Chinese shares slipped in morning trade after a private survey showed manufacturing activity in China for the month of December contracting for the first time in 19 months. The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ index (PMI), fell to 49.7 from 50.2 in November – its first contraction since May 2017.
The Shanghai composite fell about 1%, while the Shenzhen composite shed 0.426%. Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell more than 2.3%, with shares of Chinese tech heavyweight Tencent declining by nearly 2.3%.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.14%, as E-Mini future for the S&P 500 firmed 0.5% and Nasdaq futures 0.7%.
In the US, the S&P 500 had its worst December rout since 1931, ending the month down 9.2%. That monthly rout capped a 6.2% slide in the year, the biggest of the record bull market. The 10-year Treasury yield slid to 2.68%, the lowest since February.
Wall Street has benefited from the merest hint of progress on the Sino-US trade standoff, though details were still notably lacking.
In currency news, the US dollar index was at 96.183 after seeing an earlier low of 96.127. The Japanese yen was at 109.55 against the dollar after touching lows above 110.4 on Monday. The Australian dollar traded at $0.7018.