Asian stocks fell, with a regional benchmark index dropping to its lowest level in two weeks, after U.S. equities retreated from record highs and a gauge of China’s non-manufacturing industries declined.
Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., the nation’s biggest lender, dropped 2.7 percent in Hong Kong. Woodside Petroleum Ltd., Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, fell 1.1 percent in Sydney after crude futures traded near a month low. Celltrion Inc. jumped 6.4 percent after the South Korean arthritis drug maker said its No. 1 shareholder was in talks with potential buyers.
The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index declined 1 percent to 460.50, its lowest level since Dec. 20. Japanese markets are closed for a holiday. Global equities soared by about $9.6 trillion in 2013 as central-bank stimulus helped the U.S. economy gain momentum and Europe recover from its longest recession.
“There’s a little bit of profit-taking following the strong rally we’ve seen in the fourth quarter,” Khiem Do, Hong Kong-based head of Asian multi-asset strategy at Baring Asset Management Ltd., which oversees about $60 billion, said by telephone. “Fundamentals haven’t changed. The Chinese data isn’t disastrous.”
China’s purchasing managers’ index for the non-manufacturing sector fell to 54.6 in December, the lowest since August and down from 56 a month earlier, data released today by the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed. A figure above 50 indicates expansion.
“Money managers took profits off the table,” Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG Ltd. in Melbourne, said by e-mail. “There will be weakness in global cyclicals today in Asia. It’s hard to really pinpoint any bright spots.”
The China data added to signs of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy. An official gauge for factory output released Jan. 1 fell more than economists projected to a four-month low. A separate report published yesterday by HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics showed its PMI of Chinese manufacturing slipped to 50.5 from 50.8 in November, matching the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index sank 2.2 percent, with trading volumes about 38 percent higher than the 30-day average, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) of mainland stocks traded in Hong Kong dropped 2.6 percent to the lowest close since Nov. 14.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.2 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) index slid 1.1 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 1.4 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index declined 0.8 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.3 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.7 percent.
Thailand’s SET Index fell 0.5 percent after tumbling 5.2 percent yesterday, the worst start to a year for the nation’s stocks since at least 1998, as political groups opposed to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra threatened to surround government ministries and occupy major intersections in Bangkok on Jan. 13.
India’s S&P BSE Sensex index slipped 0.2 percent. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he won’t seek a third term when the country holds elections in May this year.
The Asia-Pacific excluding Japan measure traded at a price-to-earnings ratio of 13.3 times yesterday, data compiled by Bloomberg show. That compares with an earnings multiple of 17.8 on the MSCI All-Country World Index, which advanced 20 percent in 2013.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 0.2 percent today. The S&P 500 slid 0.9 percent yesterday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.8 percent, retreating from their biggest annual rallies in more than 15 years.
Chinese lenders declined. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China dropped 2.7 percent to HK$5.06 in Hong Kong. China Construction Bank Corp. (939), the nation’s second-largest lender, slipped 2.4 percent to HK$5.68. Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. decreased 2.9 percent to HK$3.67.
Energy producers posted the biggest drop among the 10 industry groups on the MSCI Asia Pacific Excluding Japan Index as crude futures traded near the lowest level in a month. The contract tumbled by most since November 2012 yesterday.
Woodside Petroleum slipped 1.1 percent to A$38.13 in Sydney. BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), the world’s biggest mining company and Australia’s No. 1 oil and gas producer, fell 1.1 percent to A$37.77. Cnooc Ltd., China’s largest offshore oil producer, dropped 3.9 percent to HK$13.82 in Hong Kong.
Chinese coal producers extended losses after Jefferies Group LLC analyst Laban Yu said the fuel’s price may collapse this year. China Shenhua Energy Co. (1088), the nation’s biggest coal producer, sank 4.4 percent to HK$22.85, dropping for a second day. China Coal Energy Co. fell 1.4 percent to HK$4.12.
Among stocks that advanced, Celltrion (068270) jumped 6.1 percent to 40,900 won in Seoul, the most since Sept. 2, after saying its largest shareholder is in talks with investors seeking to buy a stake in the pharmaceutical company.
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