Asian stocks fell broadly on Thursday, with energy firms retreating across the region after crude prices hit a six-week low in New York trading yesterday, weighed down by comments from Saudi officials and on fears of oversupply in the market.
Mixed U.S. housing data, continued contraction in China's factory sector and a fall in Japan's exports for a third consecutive month in the year to August also raised worries that the ongoing growth slowdown could be more severe than meets the eye. Commodities tumbled and the euro fell to a one-week low against the dollar ahead of a Spanish bond auction later in the day.
Tokyo stocks fell sharply on Thursday, weighed down by a stronger yen against both the dollar and euro as the impact of the Bank of Japan's additional policy easing was lost. The Nikkei average fell 1.6 percent, while the broader Topix index of all First Section issues on the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 1.4 percent. Chinese-linked shares led the decliners, with Komtsu and Hitachi down about 3 percent each, while Canon, Sony and Tokyo Electron dropped 3-5 percent.
Heavyweight Fanuc dropped 1.9 percent, steel maker Nippon Steel fell 3.4 percent, oil firm Inpex tumbled 3.5 percent and shipping line Mitsui OSK Lines retreated 3.7 percent. Domestic demand-related stocks gained ground on defensive buying, with NTT Docomo up a percent, while Japan Tobacco and Japan Airlines added about half a percent each. Ricoh rose 1.5 percent on a Nikkei report that it will raise its dividend for the year to March 2013 by 8 yen to 16.5 yen.
Chinese shares tumbled, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite index losing over 2 percent to end at a more than three-and-a-half year low as the lackluster PMI data pointed to broader economic weakness and shrinking demand in both domestic and overseas markets. Flash results of a survey by Markit Economics and HSBC revealed that the purchasing managers' index (PMI) rose to 47.8 in September from 47.6 in the previous month, suggesting shrinking manufacturing activity for an 11th straight month. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.2 percent.
Australian shares ended firmly in the red, with China-exposed miners pacing the decliners on the weak Chinese demand outlook. Both the benchmark S&P/ASX 200 and the broader All Ordinaries index dropped about half a percent each.
BHP Billiton fell 1.5 percent after it formally shelved a proposal to build a $3 billion coking coal mine in central Queensland. Rival Rio Tinto lost 2.1 percent. Fortescue Metals dropped 2.4 percent after it settled a long-running dispute with U.S. investment firm Leucadia National over a loan. Oil & gas firm Woodside fell 2.2 percent, Oil Search declined 1.3 percent and Santos tumbled 3.2 percent.
Among major banks, Commonwealth and Westpac slid less than a half percent each and NAB closed on a flat note, while ANZ shares rose 0.8 percent. Brickworks shed half a percent after the bricks and masonry supplier posted a 70 percent drop in full year profit. Billabong shares plunged 7.3 percent after the troubled surfwear retailer said one of two suitors interested in taking over the group had dropped out of the race.
Seoul shares fell notably on concerns over the outlook for growth in China. The benchmark Kospi average fell 0.9 percent, dragged down by profit taking in tech and oil stocks. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics fell 2 percent after showing little change in the past three sessions. Energy stocks like S-Oil and SK Innovation lost 3-4 percent after Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, said it would pump about 10 million barrels per day of crude and produce more if needed in an attempt to lower oil prices.
New Zealand shares bucked an otherwise downtrend across Asia-Pacific region, after outdoor clothing company Kathmandu Holdings said it expects an improved performance in fiscal 2013 should conditions not deteriorate further. Shares of the retailer jumped about 3 percent, helping lift the benchmark NZX-50 index up 0.6 percent.
Stock exchange operator NZX and utility Contact Energy also rose sharply, gaining 2.7 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively, while online auction site Trade Me, trucking and logistics company Mainfreight and New Zealand Refining, operator of the country's only oil refinery, fell between 0.8 percent and 3.5 percent. Heavyweight Telecom rose 0.9 percent after the nation's largest listed company appointed Chris Quin as chief executive of its retail division, effective Oct. 1.
Elsewhere, India's benchmark Sensex was down 0.6 percent, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was declining 0.7 percent, Malaysia's KLSE Composite shed 1.3 percent, Singapore's Straits Times eased 0.4 percent and the Taiwan Weighted average closed down 0.7 percent.
U.S. stocks ended largely unchanged with a positive bias overnight, as news of additional stimulus from the Bank of Japan offset mixed economic data on housing starts, building permits and existing home sales. The Dow, the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq all ended up just about 0.1 percent each.
by RTT Staff Writer
For comments and feedback: email@example.com