Asia stocks mostly lower on US selloff, Yemen; techs weigh

Asian equities were mostly lower on Thursday following a sharp selloff on Wall Street overnight and an escalation of political turmoil in Yemen.

Technology shares led the declines following a more than 2 percent slide on the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQ: .IXIC). The biotech and semiconductor sector bore the brunt of losses overnight, with analysts citing fears of lower earnings due to the dollar’s recent strength. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (Dow Jones Global Indexes: .DJI) and S&P 500 (CME:Index and Options Market: .INX) both ended over 1 percent lower on weak February durable goods orders.

Oil prices surged as much as 5 percent on Thursday after Saudi Arabia announced it began military operations in Yemen. The operation involves 10 countries, including Gulf nations, and is aimed at fighting Houthi militants who want to topple the government. Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi reportedly fled Aden on Wednesday as militants moved closer to the city.

Read More Yemen on brink of civil war, reports leader fled

Nikkei falls 1.4%

Japan’s benchmark index fell to a nine-day low, retreating further from a 15-year high hit on Monday.

Semiconductor shares bore the brunt of losses, tracking overnight falls in their U.S. peers: Sumco (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 3436.T-JP) and Tokyo Electron (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 8035.T-JP) slumped over 5 percent each.

Other tech shares also suffered, with Fujitsu and Sony (Tokyo Stock Exchange: 6758.T-JP) shedding 3 percent each.

Shanghai up 0.6%

China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite (Shanghai Stock Exchange: .SSEC) index bucked Asia-wide losses thanks to a rally amid energy shares. However, trade was choppy as the index swung between gains and losses.

Read More China stocks to power ahead? Experts think so

PetroChina (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 1857-SZ) and Sinopec (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 688-SZ) rallied 6 and 3 percent, respectively.

On the earnings front, Bank of China (Shanghai Stock Exchange: 1988-SZ) added 0.2 percent higher after fourth-quarter net profit rose at the slowest pace in six years. Aluminum Corporation of China (Chalco) popped over 1 percent despite reporting its biggest ever loss in 2014.

ASX 1.6% lower

Australia’s benchmark S&P ASX 200 (ASX: .AXJO) closed at a one-week low, suffering its biggest daily fall since December and moving further away from the key 6,000 mark.

Banks were sold off; Australia New Zealand Banking , National Australia Bank , Westpac (ASX: WBC-AU) and Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ASX: CBA-AU) all lost over 2 percent each. Bank of Queensland (ASX: BOQ-AU) closed down 3.3 percent despite posting record first-half earnings of A$ 167 million.

Myer (ASX: MYR-AU) slumped over 4 percent on news it is being sued by shareholders.

Kospi down 1%

South Korean shares fell to a ten-day low, dragged down by the tech selloff. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics (Korea Stock Exchange: 593-KR) was the biggest loser on the benchmark index, down more than 4 percent, while chipmaker SK Hynix (Korea Stock Exchange: 66-KR) lost 2.6 percent.

Data out before the market open showed March consumer sentiment hitting a three-month low, while inflation expectations for the next year dropped to a record low.

Nifty drops 1%

Indian shares slid to a 10-week low, closing just over 2 percent lower. Telecommunication firms bucked the trend, with Bharti Airtel (National Stock Exchange of India: BHARTIARTL-IN) and Idea Cellular higher on reports that they had bought the bulk of spectrum licences at a recent government auction.

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