Asian stocks fell across the board on Friday, as manufacturing data from China and Europe depicted a gloomy economy outlook. Also, U.S. stimulus hopes faded after a Fed official said further action to boost the U.S. economy may not be necessary in the wake of some mildly encouraging data recently.
Commodities were modestly lower and the euro eased a little bit from its recent seven-week high against the dollar as caution set in ahead of a summit between Germany and Greece later in the global day. Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande urged the debt-laden nation to stick to crucial reforms in order to stay in the eurozone.
Tokyo stocks drifted lower in thin trading, as the yen's continued strength prompted selling in shares of export-related companies such as automakers and electronics manufacturers. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 1.2 percent, while the broader Topix index slid a percent.
TDK, which makes components for hard-disk drives, tumbled 3.3 percent after personal computer maker Hewlett-Packard reported shrinking sales and disappointing earnings, hit by a massive writedown of the value of its services business.
Steel maker JFE Holdings tumbled 3.5 percent and Nippon Steel finished 1.1 percent lower as weak Chinese manufacturing data added to global growth worries. Utilities rose, with Kansai Electric Power and Tohoku Electric Power climbing about 6 percent each, after Goldman Sachs raised its view on the sector to 'attractive' from 'neutral'.
China's Shanghai Composite index fell about a percent to a more than three-year low, with shares of coal companies falling sharply on concerns over slowing growth domestically and abroad. Heavyweight oil companies also retreated on concerns over corporate earnings growth after PetroChina posted a 6 percent fall in first-half profit. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.3 percent.
Australian shares ended firmly in the red, weighed down by weak global manufacturing data, more uncertainty in Europe and fading hopes for a U.S. stimulus. Snapping a five-week losing streak, both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index ended down about 0.8 percent each. Miners led the losses, hit by plunging iron ore prices and the uncertainty over the timing of additional central bank stimulus.
Rio Tinto shares tumbled 4.4 percent, BHP Billiton lost a percent and smaller rival Fortescue slumped over 6 percent. Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens said today in an opening statement to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics that the ongoing mining boom will likely see its peak within the next year or two and the central bank is prepared to respond to significant deviations from this central forecast.
Newspaper publisher Fairfax plummeted 10.8 percent to a record low after mining magnate Gina Rinehart unsuccessfully tried to divest at least one third of her stake in the company at 50 cents last night. Whitehaven Coal shares closed down 11.2 percent after Australian mining magnate Nathan Tinkler scrapped his takeover proposal to privatize the company.
Seoul shares lost ground on renewed global growth worries and dashed hopes of further economic stimulus from major central banks. The benchmark Kospi average fell 1.2 percent to hit a two-week closing low, with financials and economy-sensitive shipbuilders bearing the brunt of the selling.
Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding fell 2-3 percent, while Woori Finance and Hana Financial fell about 4 percent each. Samsung Electronics fell 0.9 percent after a Korean court ruled that both Apple Inc. and Samsung infringed on each other's patents for mobile devices.
New Zealand shares fell sharply, mirroring weak regional cues. The benchmark NZX-50 index lost 1.1 percent, with heavyweight Telecom leading the decliners with an 8.5 percent loss after the country's top telecommunications company firm reported disappointing earnings and forecast flat earnings growth during its next fiscal year.
Shares of Sky Network Television tumbled 4.8 percent after the Auckland-based pay television company posted a 3 percent drop in full-year profit amid a slight growth in revenue. Warehouse Group, the biggest listed retailer, soared 4.7 percent on fresh buying and Kathmandu Holdings, the outdoor equipment retailer, added 2.3 percent, while construction firm Fletcher Building rose 1.6 percent. Utility Contact Energy slid 2.2 percent on going ex-dividend.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was last trading 0.4 percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index fell 0.4 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite edged down 0.2 percent, Singapore's Straits Times fell 0.2 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average slid 0.4 percent.
U.S. stocks ended notably lower overnight, with disappointing jobs data as well as continued worries about Europe weighing on the markets. The Dow fell 0.9 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq retreated 0.7 percent and the S&P 500 slid 0.8 percent.
by RTT Staff Writer
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