Asian stock markets fell broadly on Friday, as a strong performance on Wall Street overnight failed to enthuse investors. With a slew of weak U.S. economic data raising concerns over the health of the world's largest economy, investors avoided extending their long positions going into the weekend.
State media reports from China that Beijing has asked its local governments to maintain a firm grip on the real estate market to prevent property prices from rebounding also weighed on investor sentiment to some extent.
Crude prices fell from a nine-week high and copper lost a percent, while gold prices were modestly higher on speculation concerning additional stimulus measures from the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The euro fell against the dollar and yen ahead of a conference call of euro-zone finance ministers later in the day, where they are expected to formally approve Spain's bank bailout plan. Spanish 10-year government bond yields continue to trade close to the danger zone of 7 percent despite Germany approving the Spanish bank recapitalization plan.
Tokyo stocks fell sharply, with the Nikkei average hitting a three-week low, as dismal U.S. data and a relatively firmer yen prompted investors to dump shares before the weekend. The Nikkei average fell 1.43 percent to its lowest close since June 26, with major exporters like Canon and Toyota Motor bearing the brunt of the selling ahead of the upcoming corporate earnings season.
Canon fell 1.6 percent, Toyota Motor lost 1.8 percent,Sony retreated 2.2 percent, Panasonic declined 3.5 percent and NEC plunged 3.9 percent. Advantest, the world's biggest maker of memory-chip testers, tumbled 3.1 percent, weighed down by mounting concerns over a slowdown in the global semiconductor industry.
Financial stocks also lost ground on concerns over ethics in banking after regulators fined British banking group Barclays 290 million pounds for attempting to manipulate the London interbank offered rate and HSBC admitted massive shortcoming in its anti-money laundering operations. Mizuho Financial Group slumped 3.9 percent, while Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group lost 3.4 percent.
Power stocks saw heavy selling, with Chubu Electric Power losing a whopping 5.8 percent as fresh concerns surfaced over nuclear reactor restarts. Toshiba bucked the downward to end 1.1 percent higher after its U.S. business partner SanDisk Corp., reported better-than-expected earnings for the second quarter.
Australian shares fell modestly as buying momentum waned following a 2 percent rally the day before sparked by steep gains in the energy sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 slid 0.18 percent, while the broader All Ordinaries index eased 0.14 percent.
Resource stocks turned in a mixed performance, with BHP Billiton rising 0.8 percent and Rio Tinto gaining marginally, while smaller rival Fortescue plunged 5 percent after chairman Mark Vaile said he expects Nathan Tinkler to succeed in his effort to garner enough money to fund the takeover of the group.
The big four banks ended on a subdued note, losing between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent. Westpac slid 0.4 percent following an announcement that its acting financial services boss Peter Hanlon would take on a new advisory role with the bank after stepping down from his current job next month. Shares of Fairfax Media ended 2.7 percent higher, a day after the company granted a board seat to Jack Cowin.
In economic news, import prices in Australia rose more than expected in the June quarter with the weak dollar pushing up prices of fuel and pharmaceutics, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.
Seoul shares ended on a flat note, as concerns about a slowdown in the U.S. economy and Spain's financial troubles overshadowed gains in tech shares. The benchmark Kospi average ended a range-bound session down 0.03 points at 1,822.93. SK Hynix jumped 4.2 percent ahead of its earnings due out next week. Polysilicon maker OCI dropped a percent after China said it would begin investigating imported U.S. and South Korean solar-grade polysilicon.
New Zealand shares fell notably, ending the week on a subdued note as investors awaited more clues from the upcoming earnings season. The benchmark NZX-50 index slid 0.63 percent. Heavyweight Telecom lost a percent in volatile trading, exporter Fisher & Paykel Healthcare fell 1.5 percent, national carrier Air New Zealand retreated 2.2 percent and gold miner OceanaGold tumbled almost 5 percent despite higher gold prices on Thursday.
Shares of cloud-based accounting provider Xero led the gainers on the exchange, climbing 2.2 percent. The company announced after market hours that it bought Wellington-based developer Spotlight Workpapers for $800,000 in cash and scrip in an attempt to further strengthen its presence in the accounting software market, especially against incumbent suppliers. Cavalier, Freightways, New Zealand Refining and the Warehouse Group rose between 0.6 percent and 1.5 percent.
Elsewhere, China's Shanghai Composite index fell 0.74 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.42 percent. India's benchmark Sensex was last trading down 0.54 percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was moving down 0.37 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite edged down 0.1 percent and Singapore's Straits Times index was down 0.37 percent, while the Taiwan Weighted average advanced 0.23 percent.
On Wall Street, stocks ended higher for a third straight session overnight, with technology stocks adding to the substantial gains posted in the previous session, although disappointing economic data on weekly jobless claims, existing home sales and regional manufacturing limited the upside for the markets.
Additionally, shares of Morgan Stanley came under pressure after the financial giant reported weaker than expected second quarter earnings amid a notable drop in revenues. The tech-heavy Nasdaq outperformed its counterparts, rising 0.8 percent, while the Dow and the S&P 500 rose about 0.3 percent each.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org