Asia Markets Slip

Markets in Asia closed lower on Monday as Chinese leaders headed into an annual parliament meeting while in Italy, exit poll projections indicated that no party is emerging with a clear majority in Sunday's election.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 lost 139.55 points, or 0.7%, to 21,042.04, marking its fourth straight session of losses. Monday's declines also saw the Nikkei touch its lowest levels since October.

Among currency majors, the yen traded at 105.49 to the U.S. dollar, strengthening from levels above 107 in the previous week.

The Japanese currency firmed on Friday after Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda indicated the central bank would think about exiting easy monetary policy if inflation targets are met in fiscal 2019.

Major exporters in Japan declined on the back of the firmer yen. Shares of Toyota fell 1.5%, Honda was down 2.1% and Sony slipped 0.1%. A strong yen is usually a negative for exporters as it reduces their overseas profits when converted into the local currency.

The Hang Seng Index plummeted 697.04 points, or 2.3%, to 29,886.39, with large cap financials leading losses an hour before the market close.

In Australia, the heavily-weighted financial sub-index finished the day down 0.7% and material stocks lost 1.1%.

Australian banking names mostly fell: Shares of Commonwealth Bank declined 0.9% and Westpac was down 1.2%. Major mining stocks were also lower, with Fortescue losing 3.3% by the end of the day.

The Australian dollar traded at $0.7738 U.S.


The CSI 300 inched up 1.64 points to 4,018.10

China's National People's Congress meeting kicked off on Monday morning, with Premier Li Keqiang announcing a 2018 growth target of around 6.5%. For the next two weeks, the large rubber-stamp parliament will move on to pass major bills, approve the budget and endorse personnel nominations.

Defense stocks listed on the mainland got a slight boost after it was announced that China would increase its military budget by 8.1%, with Avicopter up 1.6%

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex weakened 55.27 points, or 0.5%, to 10,642.90

In Korea, the Kospi dropped 27.1 points, or 1.1%, to 2,375.06

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index fell 40.59 points, or 1.2%, to 3,438.61

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 declined 8.59 points, or 0.1%, to 8,279.83

The ASX 200 removed 33.86 points, or 0.6%, to 5,895.03