Asia Markets: Asian markets lag in meager Christmas trading

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Chinese stocks dropped by midday Monday after opening higher, led by smaller, more tech-focused markets, in slim Christmas trading.

Japan and Taiwan were the only other regional markets open for the holiday. Japan’s Nikkei index NIK, +0.18%   was recently down 0.1% while Taiwan’s stock benchmark Y9999, -0.14%   was flat.

In the cryptocurrency space, bitcoin BTCUSD, +5.25%   has been fluctuating following its plunge last week, trading in a wide price range of roughly $12,000 to $15,500. The cryptocurrency was recently around $13,600, according to CoinDesk.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, -0.51%   fell 0.4% by midday, after rising 0.1% and earlier hitting its highest level in two weeks, helped by strong gains in construction and property heavyweights. Investors in China were taking cues from the report of the annual Central Economic Work Conference last week, said Jacky Zhang, an analyst at BOC International.

The report notes that the government will continue to maintain steady economic growth and assume a softer-than-expected approach toward tackling debt and curbing soaring housing prices, he said.

On the Shenzhen exchange, which excludes state-owned enterprises listed in Shanghai, stocks continued their weakness. The Shenzhen Composite Index 399106, -1.06%   fell 0.9% and the startup-heavy ChiNext Price Index slipped 1.5%.

Chinese equities have been among the world’s worst-performing stock markets, with the Shanghai Composite Index up about 6% this year and the Shenzhen Composite falling about 4%.

Cyclical stocks, such as commodity-focused companies, have been one bright spot in China this year amid gains in metals and energy prices. With the government’s efforts to cut capacity and improve environmental protection, gains should continue in 2018, said Zhu Bin, an analyst at Southwest Securities.

On Monday, China’s central bank skipped reverse-repurchase operations in the money market, draining 120 billion yuan ($18 billion) of liquidity after eight straight sessions of net injections.