Asian stocks ended mostly lower on Monday, as weak Japanese figures as well as doubts over whether the ECB will adopt bold anti-crisis measures weighed on markets.
Investors were apprehensive to take risk after German economy minister Philipp Roesler expressed disappointment at Greece's efforts to implement necessary reforms tied to its international aid program. Separately, ECB Governing Council member Luc Coene said in an interview with newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo that ECB's bond-buying program won't solve Spain and Italy's difficulties.
Chinese shares led the declines, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite index falling about 1.5 percent, after China didn't announce any sort of stimulus measures as some analysts had expected over the weekend. Sentiment was also dented by lackluster July bank lending data. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index eased 0.3 percent, dragged down by mainland developers on fears China will not relax property controls.
Japanese shares ended slightly lower, weighed down by signs of a slowdown in the domestic economy and persisting worries about the U.S. and European economies. The benchmark Nikkei average ended 0.07 percent lower in subdued trading as many traders stayed away from their desks due to the summer holiday season. The broader Topix index also ended largely unchanged with a positive bias.
Data released in the morning showed growth in export-driven Japan slowed to an annual rate of just 1.4 percent in the three months through June, falling short of a median forecast of 2.3 percent, as cooling global demand weighed on exports and consumer spending.
China-linked shares such as Hitachi Construction Machinery and Komatsu dropped 0.8 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, after Bank of America joined Deutsche Bank AG and Barclays Plc in cutting growth forecasts for China. Daio Paper rose 1.7 percent on expectations that it will more than double its annual profit to 10 billion yen for the year ending in March next year.
Shares of Daiwa House Industry fell almost 4 percent after it agreed to buy second-tier general contractor Fujita Corp. for 50 billion yen. Dai-ichi Life Insurance rose 1.2 percent after it inked a deal to buy a 20 percent stake in Denver-based Janus. Tokio Marine Holdings rallied 3.8 percent after announcing first-quarter results.
Australian shares finished modestly higher despite waning hopes for additional stimulus measures by central banks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.1 percent, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 0.2 percent. Miners led the gainers, with Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Fortesue rising between 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent, building on last week's advance. Gold miner Newcrest soared 4.4 percent as it reported a record profit for the second year in a row.
In the financial sector, ANZ slid 0.2 percent, while Commonwealth, NAB and Westpac lost about half a percent each. Shares of JB Hi-Fi jumped 5.8 percent after the consumer electronics group reported a lower-than-expected 5 percent fall in full-year profit. Woolworths rose 0.4 percent and Wesfarmers added 0.8 percent.
James Hardie plunged over 6 percent as the building materials group warned that the Australian housing market was deteriorating. BlueScope Steel shares soared 35 percent after the company agreed to form a new joint venture with Japan's Nippon Steel Corp.
South Korea's Kospi average retreated 0.7 percent, with large-cap shares coming under selling pressure, as domestic financial institutions offloaded stocks following last week's five-session rally. Institutional investors offloaded shares worth 233.1 billion won on a net basis and retail investors sold shares to the extent of 27.2 billion won, while overseas investors continued their buying streak for the sixth consecutive session, purchasing a net 264.3 billion won worth of shares, data showed.
Among the prominent decliners, Kia Motors, SK Hynix, Samsung Electronics, SK Innovation and LG Chem fell 1-3 percent.
New Zealand shares rose, lifting the benchmark NZX 50 Index to a more than three-month high, after Freightways reported earnings that beat estimates. The benchmark index rose half a percent to 3,595, its highest level since May 2. Shares of Freightways, the courier and data management group, ended just about 0.3 percent higher after it reported a 24 percent rise in annual profit and forecast further growth in the coming year.
Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, rose 2.2 percent to a four-month high, whiteware manufacturer Fisher & Paykel Appliances advanced 2.6 percent and retirement village operator Ryman Healthcare gained 2 percent. Heavyweight Telecom ended 0.6 percent higher after Simon Moutter officially took over as new CEO of the company.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was last trading up 0.3 percent, Singapore's Straits Times index rose 0.4 percent and Malaysia's KLSE Composite gained 0.1 percent, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index fell 0.9 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average edged down marginally.
Commodities were mixed and the euro edged lower against the dollar ahead of the release of second-quarter gross domestic product data from the euro zone tomorrow. U.S. retail sales for July and inflation data due for release tomorrow may provide further clues as to whether the Federal Reserve will ease its policy in September.
On Wall Street, stocks shrugged off morning weakness to finish slightly higher on Friday, as weak Chinese trade as well as bank-lending data spurred fresh hopes of more central bank stimulus. The Dow rose 0.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained marginally and the S&P 500 ended 0.2 percent higher.
by RTT Staff Writer
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