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Asia: Shares drop after Japan quake as China data boosts Australian dollar


[WELLINGTON] Asian equities snapped their longest rally in a year as Japanese stocks retreated following the country's strongest earthquake in five years. Australia's dollar strengthened after China released a flood of economic data.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell for the first time in eight days. Japan's Topix index retreated from this month's high, while the yen extended its loss for the week.

US crude climbed before major producers meet in Doha on Sunday to discuss freezing output. Australia's currency rose toward the strongest level since June, climbing with New Zealand's dollar and South Korea's won.

China's gross domestic product increased 6.7 per cent from a year earlier in the first quarter, in line with economist estimates. Industrial output grew 6.8 per cent in March, more than the 5.9 per cent forecast in a Bloomberg survey.

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The fortunes of the world's second-largest economy are a key determinant of investor sentiment and signs a slowdown is easing have helped to restore confidence after global equities sank to the lowest levels since 2013 in February.

Another major factor is oil, which has rebounded from a 13-year low in the past two months, and the International Energy Agency said on Thursday it expects global crude markets will move closer to balance after a glut. Qatar's energy minister said he had a "positive feeling" ahead of the Doha summit.

Stocks The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.4 per cent as of 11.08am Tokyo time, trimming this week's advance to 4.2 per cent.

The Topix lost 0.6 per cent following a three-day surge of more than 7 per cent. A magnitude 6.5 earthquake struck the southern part of Japan late on Thursday, killing nine people and injuring hundreds.

The Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.3 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.5 per cent, snapping a seven-day run of gains.