Asian markets were mostly lower in Easter holiday trade on Monday, with Japan’s Nikkei giving up early gains despite a weaker yen as data showed the country’s trade deficit quadrupled in March.
Chinese shares slipped on fears over the economy as well as liquidity, after authorities unveiled a list of 28 firms that have filed for initial public offerings (IPOs).
Tokyo finished flat, giving up 3.89 points to 14,512.38, Seoul was down 0.25 per cent, or 5.06 points, at 1,999.22, while Taipei ended 0.17 per cent, or 15.47 points, lower at 8,951.19. Shanghai tumbled 1.52 per cent, or 31.92 points, to 2,065.83.
Singapore was flat in afternoon trade.
Hong Kong, Sydney and Wellington were closed for the Easter holidays.
With markets in most of Europe and the United States closed on Friday and Monday, business was thin as investors look ahead to the release this week of preliminary manufacturing data from around the world as well as US retail and house price figures.
In afternoon trade the US dollar was at Y102.55 compared with Y102.41 on Friday, while the euro bought $US1.3825 and Y141.76, against $US1.3817 and Y141.48.
In Tokyo, the government said Japan’s trade deficit hit $US14 billion ($A14.99 billion) in March, compared with a shortfall of Y356.9 billion ($A3.74 billion) a year ago.
The huge deficit came as a weaker yen increased the cost of imports, especially of fossil fuels. This was compounded by the fact consumers rushed to buy ahead of an April 1 sales tax hike.
This week will see the start of corporate reporting for the first three months of 2014, with investors paying close attention to Japanese firms’ outlooks following the sales tax rise, which critics fear could derail the economy’s emerging recovery.
“It’s difficult to project an impact from the consumption tax increase. Companies are likely to report conservative guidance,” Shigeo Sugawara, senior investment officer at Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.
In China the stock regulator at the weekend said several firms were planning IPOs, state media reported, sparking worries that floodgates were opening after a two-month pause in new listings.
On oil markets New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate for May delivery, dipped 13 US cents to $US104.17 in afternoon trade and Brent North Sea crude for June eased 42 cents to $US109.11 a barrel.
Gold fetched $US1,286.69 an ounce at 1710 AEST on Monday, compared with $US1,289.90 on Friday.