Asia Markets: Struggling shipbuilders drag down South Korea’s Kospi

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Asia-Pacific stocks mostly rose modestly Wednesday morning as the remainder of the region opened after the Christmas holiday, though slumping shares in the world’s largest shipbuilder weighed on South Korea’s benchmark.

The Kospi SEU, -0.26%   was recently down 0.2%, off session lows, as Hyundai Heavy Industries 009540, -28.68%   plunged 29%, easily its worst day if maintained through the close. Unit Hyundai Mipo Dockyard 010620, -20.06%  , which is also in the index, slumped 21%.

Hyundai Heavy, the world’s biggest shipbuilder, gave guidance through 2018, announced a 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion) stock-sale plan to raise funds for operations and said it intends to sell part of its refining operation through an initial public offering.

The update came three weeks after smaller peer Samsung Heavy 010140, -2.23%   lost one-quarter of its value in a day after warning of heavy losses and planning its own stock sale. Its shares were down 2.4% Wednesday morning, hitting 11½ -year lows.

South Korean stocks were weighed down Tuesday by declines of more than 3% for Samsung Electronics 005930, +1.20%   and SK Hynix 000660, +1.49%   following a report from Taiwan that iPhone 8 orders were being slashed for the first quarter. That weighed on Apple shares Tuesday, as well as on Taiwan’s market, home to many Apple suppliers.

Separate reports, meanwhile, said sales for the iPhone X, whose screen is thought to be provided exclusively by Samsung, have been muted.

Samsung and SK Hynix reversed some of their stock declines Wednesday, and so did Taiwan’s stock benchmark. The Taiex Y9999, +0.70%   rose 0.5%.

Smaller gains were seen elsewhere in the region, with indexes up no more than 0.2% in a number of countries.

But Southeast Asia was outperforming with gains of 0.4%, including in Singapore STI, +0.34%   after its benchmark hit a five-week closing low Tuesday. Overnight gains in commodity prices helped. Oil hit another 2½ -year high, and copper notched a three-year best. Oil has pulled back nearly 0.5% in Asia.

Overall, “with limited economic data to push markets around this week, today really is about position squaring” ahead of the new year, said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Markets.

Australia’s stock benchmark XJO, +0.03%   hit 10-year highs Wednesday in the week’s first trading there and was recently up 0.1%.

But New Zealand’s NZX 50 NZ50GR, -0.23%   turned lower in afternoon trading after a four-day weekend there as well, putting at risk the prospect of another record closing high.

Bitcoin BTCUSD, +1.33%   remains in the $15,500 to $16,000 range it’s been in for the past 12 hours as trading in the cryptocurrency has calmed for the moment. It was recently around $15,700, according to CoinDesk.