Markets in Asia fall; oil rises on report that US is to end Iran sanctions waivers

Markets in Asia were mostly lower in Monday afternoon trade, while stocks in Australia and Hong Kong were closed for the Easter Monday holiday.

The broad MSCI Asia ex-Japan index declined 0.31 percent to 542.00, as of 12:34 p.m. HK/SIN.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was fractionally higher, as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing, Softbank Group and Fanuc declined. The Topix index also hovered around the flat line.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi slipped 0.24 percent as chipmaker SK Hynix saw its stock price drop 1.96 percent.

Mainland Chinese shares were lower in the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite slipping 1.39 percent and the Shenzhen component falling about 1.61 percent. The Shenzhen composite also shed 1.213 percent.

The Colombo Stock Exchange in Sri Lanka was closed on Monday following a series of attacks on Easter Sunday that left more than 200 people killed.

“In the specific case of Sri Lanka, their contribution to the overall Asian market is still pretty small in terms of their influence, so we don’t expect a very large and long-lasting impact — but certainly for its own economy, the impact will be quite big,” Corrine Png, regional head of equities research at AIA Investment Management, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Monday.

“Even before the attacks, we have seen tourist arrivals growth slow meaningfully from 10 percent last year to Sri Lanka to about 4 percent in the first quarter of this year because of political instability,” Png added.

In India, embattled carrier Jet Airways plummeted to lows not seen since March 2009, Reuters reported. Earlier this month, Jet Airways said it was stopping all flight operations after its lenders rejected a request for emergency funds. That may potentially lead to bankruptcy as the carrier is currently saddled with about $1.2 billion of bank debt.

At its peak, Jet Airways operated more than 120 planes and over 600 daily flights. The stock last traded lower by about 14 percent.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 97.391 after touching lows below 96.9 last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.92 after touching an earlier high of 111.84, while the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7136 after seeing highs around the $0.720 last week.

Oil prices surged in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract adding 2.54 percent to trade at $73.80 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 2.41 percent to about $65.54 per barrel.

The moves came following a Washington Post report that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will announce the State Department will cease to grant sanctions waivers to countries that import crude or condensate from Iran, from May 2.

Meanwhile, Libya’s capital Tripoli was hit by a series of airstrikes and explosions over the weekend.

The country, a major exporter in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, has been torn by conflict since the fall of dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. It was sent into fresh conflict in recent weeks after its eastern military leader ordered his forces to move in on the capital where the United Nations-recognized government sits.

Source: CNBC