French election jitters drag Nikkei Asia300 Index lower this week
SINGAPORE (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan ended the week lower, as caution ahead of French presidential elections and worries about North Korea's nuclear ambitions damped risk appetite.
The Nikkei Asia300 Index rose 0.3% to 1,162.86 on Friday after renewed hopes of U.S. tax reforms propped up indexes on Wall Street, boosting risk appetite. For the week, it fell 0.4% as concern over developments between the U.S. and North Korea cast a cloud on investor sentiment following the U.S. navy's recent deployment of a strike group toward the western Pacific.
Markets are also nervous about the upcoming French presidential elections, which start Sunday. A victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen could spell uncertainty for the euro zone, as the leader of the National Front is anti-immigration and has vowed to pull France out of the European Union if she wins. Investors shrugged off British Prime Minister Theresa May's decision to call a snap election in June.
The country index for China ended little changed on Friday and nearly flat for the week. Beijing's move to cut taxes on businesses and individuals by about 380 billion yuan ($55 billion) this year to spur growth and boost spending in Asia's largest economy helped offset a three-day selloff sparked by a regulatory clampdown.
Hong Kong's index slumped 1.5% in the four trading sessions this week. The city's markets were closed on Monday for Easter Monday.
A slide in global crude oil prices weighed on energy producers. PetroChina fell 0.7% on Friday to end the week 3% lower. CNOOC lost 4%. The offshore oil producer on Tuesday said Yang Hua resigned as chief executive officer. The city's property developers were also among the major losers this week, with Hang Lung Properties shedding more than 4% over the last four trading days.
Data released Wednesday showed Malaysia's consumer price index rose to an over eight-year high in March. The consumer price index - Malaysia's main gauge of inflation - rose 5.1% in March from a year earlier driven mostly by costlier fuel.
Sapura Energy fell 1.5% this week, weighed down by oil prices.
Neighboring city-state Singapore's gauge shed 0.8% this week. Data released this week showed Singapore's non-oil domestic exports increased 16.5% in March from a year ago to a seasonally adjusted 14.9 billion Singapore dollars ($10.7 billion), slowing from February's expansion of 21.1%.
Falling oil prices weighed on rig builders. Keppel Corp. was down 5.1% for the week despite reporting a 23% increase in net income for the first quarter. Sembcorp Industries fell 1.6%.
The Nikkei Asia300 South Korea Index slid 0.2% this week. Samsung Electronics, the heaviest weighted stock on the 316-stock gauge, shed 3% for its worst weekly loss since October last year.
Taiwan's gauge lost 0.3% this week. Data released Thursday showed the nation's export orders rose 12.3% in March, ahead of expectations, but lower than February's 22% increase. For the first quarter, export orders were up 12.6%.
The Nikkei Asia300 India Index lost 0.5% this week. Technology heavyweight Infosys fell 0.8% over the last five days, marking a fifth consecutive weekly decline. Last Thursday, the Bengaluru-based company issued a weaker-than-expected revenue outlook for the year. Tata Consultancy Services, which reported a smaller-than-expected fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday, lost 0.7% this week.
--Kevin Lim and Nimesh Vora
--Nikkei Markets is a real-time financial news service for South East Asia's markets published by Nikkei NewsRise Asia Pte Ltd, a Nikkei and NewsRise joint venture company. Nikkei Markets provides wide companies coverage in the region, including the Nikkei's Asia300 companies.