Asian stocks fell, with every major benchmark gauge in the region retreating, as economic data in the U.S. and China stoked concern global growth is slowing. Japan’s Topix Index closed at the lowest level since 1983.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index joined the Topix in falling more than 20 percent from this year’s high, entering so-called bear markets. Sony Corp. (6758), a Japanese exporter of consumer electronics that gets about a fifth of its sales in the U.S., fell to levels not seen since 1980, when the Walkman was introduced in the U.S. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s biggest mining company, and Cnooc Ltd. (883), China’s largest offshore oil producer, lost at least 2.6 percent as a gauge of commodities prices fell to an eight-month low.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index dropped 2.1 percent to 109.10 as of 7:43 p.m. in Tokyo, its lowest level since November, with more than seven shares falling for each that rose. The gauge has fallen 15 percent from its peak this year on Feb. 29.
“It’s pretty bad out there with the weak U.S. data, growth cooling in China and with the European debt crisis escalating,” said Benjamin Tam, who helps manage about $1.5 billion at IG Investment in Hong Kong. “All this put together shows we need coordinated action from central banks to calm the markets and stop them falling.”
Futures on Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.1 percent after falling as much as 0.9 percent today. The gauge slumped 2.5 percent in New York on June 1 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased its 2012 gains after reports showed U.S. hiring missed even the most-pessimistic forecast, the jobless rate rose to 8.2 percent, and a manufacturing index retreated from a 10-month high.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific slumped 10 percent in May, the biggest monthly loss since October 2008, when global markets tumbled following the collapse of Lehman Brother Holdings Inc. Equities continued declines into June as the U.S. jobs report added to concern global growth is slowing amid a deepening debt crisis in Europe.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises lost 2.6 percent and Japan’s Topix fell 1.9 percent, joining benchmarks in Russia and Brazil which have fallen more than 20 percent from recent highs. The Topix closed at the lowest since December 1983 as investors fled to the relative safety of the yen, driving the currency higher, reducing the competitiveness of Japanese exports and cutting the value of overseas sales. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped 1.7 percent today.
“People are more concerned about a return ‘of’ their capital, as opposed to a return ‘on’ their capital,” said Nick Maroutsos, who oversees about A$3 billion ($2.9 billion) as managing director and co-founder of Sydney-based Kapstream Capital.
In Seoul, the Kospi Index dropped 2.8 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slid 1.9 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index retreated 2 percent.
“The poor U.S. payrolls number should start to deflate investor optimism about U.S. growth that we’ve encountered, leaving few places for investors to hide,” said Gerard Minack, global developed-market strategist at Morgan Stanley in Sydney.
Sony fell 1.7 percent to 996 yen, closing below 1,000 yen in Tokyo trading for the first time since 1980. Toyota Motor Corp., Asia’s biggest carmaker, retreated 3.5 percent to 2,904 yen. Honda Motor Co., the third-biggest, slid 3.7 percent to 2,368 yen.
China’s non-manufacturing industries expanded at the slowest pace in more than a year as export orders declined and weakness in real estate overshadowed strength in retailing and leasing, an official survey indicated.
The purchasing managers’ index fell to 55.2 in May from 56.1 in April, the National Bureau of Statistics and China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing said yesterday in Beijing. That’s the lowest reading since March 2011 when the federation started seasonally adjusting the data.
The S&P GSCI Spot Index of 24 commodities fell 1.1 percent to 574.69, the lowest since October.
BHP Billiton lost 3.1 percent to A$30.75. Rio Tinto Group, the world’s third-largest mining company, declined 4.7 percent to A$52.90. Jiangxi Copper Co., China’s biggest producer of the metal, slipped 3.6 percent to HK$15.52.
Cnooc dropped 2.6 percent to HK$13.38. Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL), Australia’s second-largest oil producer, retreated 3.4 percent to A$30.87.
Declines in regional equity markets dragged down valuations on the Asian benchmark to 11.4 times estimated earnings on average through June 1, compared with 12.2 times for the S&P 500 and 9.8 times for the Stoxx 600.
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