Asia shares mixed, most markets closed for Lunar New Year

Asia shares mixed, most markets closed for Lunar New Year
A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. Shares are lower in most markets open in Asia with much of the region taking a break for the Lunar New Year.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were lower in most of the markets open in Asia on Tuesday, though much of the region took a break for the Lunar New Year.

Australia’s benchmark surged 2.1 percent to 6,017.20 following a report on a probe into banking malpractices that was less severe than anticipated.

The lackluster trading followed a day of gains on Wall Street as buying of technology companies outweighed losses in health care, materials and utilities stocks.

Markets in mainland China are closed for the week for new year festivities.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2 percent to 20,844.45, while India’s Sensex was flat at 36,595.88. Thailand’s benchmark fell 0.1 percent. Other markets were closed.

WALL STREET: The market got off to a weak start Monday after the government reported that factory orders fell in November, but by midday major indexes had turned higher as attention turned to strong corporate earnings. The S&P 500 index rose 0.7 percent to 2,724.87 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.7 percent to 25,239.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite gained 1.2 percent to 7,347.54, while the Russell 2000 index of smaller companies picked up 15.48 points, or 1 percent, to 1,517.54.

AUSTRALIA BANKS: Three of Australia’s largest banks could face prosecution following a yearlong investigation into widespread abuses. It recommended tougher oversight and better consumer safeguards, as Commissioner Kenneth Hayne referred 24 incidents of misconduct to regulators for further investigation and possible civil or criminal charges against executives and corporations. The banks in question included Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking Group and National Australian Bank. Westpac Banking Corp. was not included. Those big four banks gained more than billion in value on Tuesday after relieved investors welcomed the recommendations.

FACTORY ORDERS: The government report showed U.S. factory orders declined 0.6 percent in November, mainly due to lower demand for machinery and electrical equipment. That surprised economists, who had forecast a slight increase. The report is one of many that were delayed by a monthlong government shutdown. The long list of missing indicators makes it difficult to gauge the health of the economy and has prompted a cautious outlook from analysts.

ENERGY: U.S. crude gained 27 cents to .83 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 1.3 percent to settle at .56 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 24 cents to .75 per barrel. It slipped 0.4 percent to close at .51 per barrel in London. The lower prices follow a round of supply cuts by OPEC in January and more U.S. sanctions against Venezuela.

CURRENCIES: The dollar was flat at 109.89 yen on Monday. The euro weakened versus the dollar to .1432 from .1438.