World Economy

Asia Markets Lower

Asia Markets LowerAsia Markets Lower

Asian markets headed lower on Wednesday as investors became cautious ahead of central bank meetings and economic data this week.

Investors are awaiting more details from the European Central Bank about its $1.23 trillion bond-buying program, according to BBC.

In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225 closed down 0.6% at 18,703.6 - a one-week low - after disappointing data. Japan’s services sector shrank in February after three months of growth.

The monthly purchasing managers’ index (PMI) from research firm Markit fell to 48.5 from 51.3 in January, the lowest reading since April. A number below 50 indicates contraction in the sector.

Shares of Sharp fell by as much as 10% after S&P cut its credit rating on the company following news that it plans to ask its lenders for more funding. Its shares closed down 5.3%.

The dollar fell to 119.68 yen from 119.74 yen in New York, coming off levels above 120 yen on Tuesday.

  China Markets Grow

In China, markets headed in opposite directions after a private survey showed that activity in its services sector grew in February with new orders rising at their quickest pace in three months.

The HSBC/Markit services PMI rose to 52 last month from January’s 51.8. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite closed up 0.5% at 3,279.53, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell nearly 1% to 24,465.38. Australian shares closed lower after data showed that the economy grew at its slowest pace in 2014 on an annual basis in the fourth quarter.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.5% at 5,901.6.

Australian regulators also said they were investigating the unusual spike in the Australian dollar before the central bank’s decision to leave interest rates on hold on Tuesday.

The currency jumped almost half a US cent to about $0.7823 before the rate announcement and went on to hit a session high of $0.7845 after the decision was announced. In South Korea, the Kospi index ended down 0.2% at 1,998.29.

  European Shares Trim

European shares trimmed their gains on Wednesday morning after Markit’s final February Composite PMIs came at 53.3, weaker than a preliminary estimate of 53.5. At 0919 GMT, the FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was up 0.1 percent at 1,546.71 points, after gaining as much as 0.5 percent in early trade.

“There’s some disappointment on the PMIs. In the past few weeks, the market enjoyed positive surprises on the macro front in Europe, which boosted investors’ expectations,” Saxo Bank trader Pierre Martin said.