Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index declining to a three-week low, amid concern signs of improvement in the U.S. jobs market will prompt the Federal Reserve to bring forward cuts to stimulus.
Nissan Motor Co., a Japanese carmaker that gets 34 percent of its revenue in North America, dropped 3.5 percent. Qantas Airways Ltd. tumbled 11 percent after Australia’s largest carrier announced job cuts and forecast a A$300 million ($271 million) first-half loss, citing competition. Standard Chartered Plc sank 4.7 percent in Hong Kong after the U.K. lender said full-year operating profit at its consumer-banking unit will drop at least 10 percent, hurt by its Korean business.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.4 percent to 139.52 as of 7 p.m. in Hong Kong, its lowest close since Nov. 13. More than two shares fell for each that rose on the gauge. Fed policy makers meet Dec. 17-18 after minutes of the October gathering showed they may reduce $85 billion of monthly bond buying should the U.S. economy improve as anticipated.
“As people digest the potential impact of the tapering, we’re likely to see softer share markets in the weeks ahead,” Angus Gluskie, who helps oversee about $550 million as a fund manager at White Funds Management in Sydney, said by phone. “If you’re still positive on the longer-term economic outlook, there could be buying opportunities. We’re still in a reasonable environment to hold equities.”
The U.S. added more jobs than analysts predicted last month, a private report showed yesterday, fueling concern tomorrow’s payrolls data may make earlier stimulus cuts more likely. Initial jobless claims and economic growth figures for the U.S. are due today, while the European Central Bank and Bank of England are projected to hold key interest rates at record lows.
Japan’s Topix index slipped 0.9 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex decreased fell 0.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.1 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.2 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index dropped 1.2 percent, its lowest close since Sept. 13.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 1.4 percent to the weakest close since Oct. 10 as Westpac Banking Corp. dropped 2.7 percent to A$31.49., leading lenders lower. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index retreated 0.3 percent.
India’s S&P BSE Sensex index climbed 1.2 percent, the biggest advance in a month, as an exit poll showed the nation’s main opposition party is set to win four of five state elections before a national vote next year.
Thailand’s market is closed for King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s birthday with protesters vowing to resume their push to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s administration.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 7.9 percent this year through yesterday as central banks boosted stimulus to support growth globally and China’s economy showed signs of stabilization. The gauge traded at 13.8 times estimated earnings, compared with multiples of 16.1 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 14.8 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
U.S. companies added 215,000 jobs in November, according to an ADP Research Institute report released yesterday, more than the 170,000 predicted in a Bloomberg survey of economists and the biggest increase in a year. New-home sales jumped more than 25 percent, the biggest one-month surge since May 1980, government data showed.
Growth in manufacturing, technology and housing kept the U.S. economy expanding at a “modest to moderate” pace through mid-November, the Fed said in its Beige Book survey released yesterday.
Data today is projected to show initial claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. climbed to 322,000 in the week to Nov. 30, after unexpectedly dropping to a two-month low in October. Annualized growth in the world’s biggest economy probably accelerated to 3.1 percent in the third quarter, the most since the first three months of 2012, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.
Exporters declined. Nissan fell 3.5 percent to 880 yen, the biggest slide in a month. Li & Fung Ltd., a supplier of toys and clothes to retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc., lost 1 percent to HK$10.30 in Hong Kong. SK Hynix Inc. (000660), the world’s second-largest market of computer memory chips, slid 1.6 percent to 34,250 won in Seoul.
Qantas slumped 11 percent to A$1.07, its lowest close since July, after the airline said it will cut 1,000 jobs after predicting record first-half losses amid rising fuel costs and declining ticket prices.
Standard Chartered, the U.K. lender that gets about three-quarters of its earnings in Asia, sank 4.8 percent to HK$177.10. Income from South Korea may fall 15 percent this year, dragging the operating profit at its consumer-banking unit, the bank said yesterday.
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