Stock markets in Asia started the week on the back foot, with gaming shares across the region taking a hit after reports that China was detaining several staff at one of Australia’s largest casino companies.
Shares of Crown Resorts, fell 13.90 percent to 11.15 Australian dollars ($8.48), after the company told regulators that 18 of its employees, including its executive vice president of the VIP international business, Jason O’Connor, were detained by Chinese authorities.
Crown said it was working with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to make contact with them.
China’s Foreign Ministry told CNBC in an emailed statement that Australian nationals were under criminal detention by the Chinese authorities for their “suspected involvements in gambling crimes.” The statement said the case was being investigated.
Shares of rival Star Entertainment dropped 3.66 percent to close at A$5.52 a share.
Hong Kong-listed gaming shares were also lower, with Wynn Macau down 3.22 percent, Sands China lower by 3.29 percent and Melco International down 7.10 percent in late afternoon trade.
Australia’s ASX 200 fell 45.33 points, or 0.83 percent, to 5,388.70, with most sectors closing lower. The heavily-weighted financial sector gave up earlier gains of nearly 0.5 percent to finish down 0.27 percent. The energy sector dropped 0.81 percent, following lower oil prices during Asian trade.
In South Korea, the Kospi closed up 4.95 points, or 0.24 percent, at 2,027.61.
Samsung Electronics shares rose 0.82 percent, after erasing earlier losses of nearly 1.30 percent. Last week, the company said its Galaxy Note 7 debacle was going to cost it more than $5 billion, after it abandoned production of the handsets.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.93 percent as of 3:23 p.m. HK/SIN. Chinese mainland indexes also finished lower, with the Shanghai composite closing down 22.56 points, or 0.74 percent, at 3,041.24, while the Shenzhen composite fell 19.18 points, or 0.93 percent, to 2,027.55.
On tap later this week is a deluge of data from China, including third-quarter gross domestic product (GDP), house prices, industrial production numbers, retail sales and fixed asset investment.
Japanese markets finished mostly higher, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 climbing 43.75 points, or 0.26 percent, to 16,900.12, as shares likely received a boost from a relatively weaker yen. The Japanese yen traded at 104.04 against the dollar as of 3:25 p.m. HK/SIN, compared with levels below 103.80 in the previous week.
Shares of major exporters closed mostly higher; Toyota shares were up 0.62 percent, Nissan gained 0.22 percent and Mitsubishi Electric added 2.39 percent. Honda shares edged down 0.1 percent, while Sony shares fell 0.38 percent.
A weaker yen is usually a positive for exporters as it increases their overseas profits when converted back to local currency.
Major indexes in Singapore, Thailand and India also traded lower Monday afternoon.
In the currency market, the dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, traded at 97.99 as of 3:26 p.m. HK/SIN, coming off an earlier session high of 98.17.
The dollar strengthened on Friday, from levels below 97.80, after Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the central bank might want to let inflation run hotter for a while, pointing out that the economy had seen an unusual tendency for weak demand against strong supply.
She said that made it reasonable to ask if there was a possibility to reverse adverse supply-side effects by temporarily running an economy with robust aggregate demand and a tight labor market.
“Though the Fed chair offered no fresh clues on near term policy decisions, Yellen posed a lot of questions deemed worthy of further research, the one markets jumped on being the suggestion that running a ‘high pressure’ economy could boost labor market participation and ultimately lift the supply side potential of the U.S. economy,” Ray Attrill, global co-head of foreign exchange strategy at the National Australia Bank, said in a morning note.
Stephen Innes, a senior trader at OANDA, said in another note that despite the Fed’s “lower for longer” rhetoric, “the expected case for a December rate hike remains on course.” But he added that given the division within the Federal Open Market Committee, the possible rate hike wasn’t a done deal.
The relative strength in the dollar kept other currency majors lower; the British pound traded at $1.2178, compared with its last close at $1.2185, while the euro was at $1.0986, compared with levels above $1.10 in the previous week.
Elsewhere, the Australian dollar fell from an earlier session high of $0.7632 to around $0.7589 as of 3:30 p.m. HK/SIN.
Oil prices traded lower in the afternoon during Asian hours. U.S. crude futures were down 0.75 percent at $49.97 a barrel while the global benchmark Brent was off by 0.64 percent at $51.62 as of 3:31 p.m. HK/SIN.
That sent some energy plays around the region lower; Santos shares fell 2.43 percent, Oil Search was down 0.98 percent, South Korea’s S-Oil retraced losses to trade flat, while Hong Kong listed shares of CNOOC fell 1.92 percent in late-afternoon trade. Japan’s Inpex and Fuji Oil bucked the trend to close up 2.35 percent and 1.22 percent, respectively.
Elsewhere, shares of Panasonic closed up 2.05 percent, following reports the Japanese electronics maker was going to collaborate with Tesla Motors to manufacture solar cells and modules in the United States.