Asia: Mostly lower after MH17 crash news

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mostly lower yesterday after a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jet came down in battle-wracked Ukraine, sparking geopolitical tensions and sending Wall Street tumbling as the US claimed the aircraft had been shot down.

Airline stocks retreated, led by a slump in already under-pressure MAS as the company faced up to its second major disaster in four months following Thursday’s tragedy that killed almost 300 people.

Tokyo fell one per cent, or 154.55 points, to 15,215.71, Seoul eased 0.07 per cent or 1.48 points to 2,019.42, while Sydney ended slightly higher, adding 0.17 per cent to close at 5,531.6 while Shanghai gained 0.17 per cent, or 3.48 points, to 2,059.07.

Regional markets ended broadly lower but made back some ground from early lows. MAS’ Flight MH17 was carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in eastern Ukraine. US vice-president Joe Biden said the jet had been apparently “blown out of the sky”, while officials said it had been hit by a surface-to-air missile.

Shares in MAS fell by as much as 17.8 per cent on the news, which comes months after Flight MH370 went missing with hundreds on board in a remote part of the Indian Ocean. In afternoon trade shares were 11 per cent lower.

Combined with the airline’s perennial losses, the MH370 debacle has pummelled its shares this year — it has lost more than a third of its value since January 1 — and sparked speculation over whether it may be sold off or restructured.

Yesterday’s selloff also affected other airlines, with Japan’s JAL losing 0.7 per cent and ANA slipping 0.8 per cent. Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific lost 0.7 per cent in the afternoon. Air New Zealand shed 2.5 per cent.

In other markets:

q Taipei was marginally lower, losing 7.27 points to 9,400.97.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co fell 0.8 per cent to T$123.5 while smartphone maker HTC rose 2.94 per cent to TX$140.0.

q Wellington edged down 3.46 points to 5,108.90.

q Manila closed 0.21 per cent lower, giving up 14.29 points to 6,853.07.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone eased 0.07 per cent to 3,028.00 pesos, SM Investments fell 1.09 per cent to 774.00 pesos and SM Prime Holdings ended 1.63 per cent down at 15.74 pesos. AFP