Asian Stocks Fall as Markets Mull China Growth Forecast

A man walks past an electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index outside a local bank in Hong Kong, Monday, March 5, 2018. Asian shares. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

Asian shares fell Monday as investors evaluated Beijing’s annual growth forecast for the Chinese economy while the uncertain outcome of Italian elections weighed on sentiment.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.7 percent to 21,042.09 and South Korea’s Kospi slipped 1.1 percent to 2,376.31. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.5 percent to 30,127.38 and the Shanghai Composite in mainland China dipped 0.1 percent to 3,250.35. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 5,895.00. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia also lost ground.

Projections showed no single party or bloc emerged from Sunday’s election with enough support to win a majority in the Italian parliament, setting the stage for an extended period of political uncertainty. The forecasts showed a center-right coalition that includes an anti-migrant party took a slight lead over the populist 5-Star Movement, but neither were close to the threshold needed to form a government. Rival anti-Europe parties garnered more than half the vote, a result that’s likely to unsettle the European Union and possibly financial markets.

“The messy Italian election result adds a bit to the nervousness around global equity markets at present,” said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy at AMP Capital in Sydney.

Major U.S. benchmarks ended mostly higher on Friday. The S&P 500 ended 0.5 percent higher at 2,691.25 while the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.3 percent to 24,538.06. The Nasdaq composite rose 1.1 percent to 7,257.87.

The dollar fell to a fresh 17-month low, weakening to 105.54 Japanese yen from 105.74 late Friday. The euro slipped to $1.2303 from $1.2320.

Oil futures extended their rally. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 19 cents to $61.44 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange in New York. The contract rose 26 cents to settle at $61.25 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 17 cents to $64.54 a barrel.