Depressed Asia stocks await Japan stimulus details

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Asia stocks lost ground on Tuesday as low oil prices dented sentiment and investors awaited premier Shinzo Abe’s announcement on details of the government’s massive stimulus programme.

Crude prices rebounded modestly in Asian trade, but were still hovering around three-month lows of around $40 a barrel a day after slipping into a bear market, taking the wind out of energy and commodity-linked shares.

Abe is expected later Tuesday to offer some specifics on the whopping 28 trillion yen ($273 billion) fiscal package announced last week to kickstart the world’s number-three economy.

At the lunch break, Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index was down 0.7 percent, while Sydney edged 0.4 percent lower and Seoul fell 0.5 percent.

Shanghai ticked up 0.2 percent after opening in the red, but Taipei, Manila and Singapore were lower.

Hong Kong’s stock exchange was shuttered as Typhoon Nida slammed the city with violent winds and torrential rain.

Oil’s decline “will probably weigh on sentiment a little bit and we may see some risk-off moves associated with that”, James Woods, a strategist at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

“We’ll have an update from Shinzo Abe in Japan today, just running through the measures of the 28 trillion yen stimulus package. It’s really what’s going to dictate risk sentiment.”

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate was up seven cents to $40.13 a barrel while North Sea Brent rose 16 cents to $42.30.

– ‘Economic boost’ –

Australia’s Woodside Petroleum lost 1.4 percent, while Tokyo-listed Inpex and refiner JX Holdings dived 3.7 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

Tokyo offered few details about its plan — particularly the amount of fresh spending — when it was unveiled last week, before the Bank of Japan disappointed markets with minor tweaks to its own measures on Friday.

The central bank did not expand a massive bond-buying programme — a cornerstone of its years-long battle against deflation — despite hopes for a one-two punch to boost the sluggish economy.

Only about one-quarter of the package will be fresh spending with loans and other financing spread over several years making up the rest, Bloomberg said, citing a personal familiar with the matter.

“The fiscal spending will probably include public works spending, so we can expect something of an economic boost,” said Masaki Kuwahara, an economist at Nomura Securities in Tokyo.

Japan’s economy is suffering from sluggish growth as a recent spike in the yen threatens corporate profits.

In forex markets Tuesday, the dollar edged higher against the yen to 102.60 yen in early trade, while it also rose against the oil-linked Malaysian ringgit and emerging market units, including the South Korean won, Indonesia’s rupiah and the Philippine peso.

– Key figures around 0315 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.7 percent at 16,522.47 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: closed

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 2,959.42

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1170 from $1.1160

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3189 from $1.3178

Dollar/yen: UP at 102.60 yen from 102.41 yen

New York – DOW: DOWN 0.2 percent at 18,404.51 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.5 percent at 6,693.95 (close)

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