Asian stocks swung between gains and losses as investors await the results of a European summit tomorrow where leaders are expected to hammer out details on enhancing the region’s bailout fund.
Esprit Holdings Ltd., a clothier that gets 79 percent of its revenue in Europe, lost 2.8 percent in Hong Kong. NGK Insulators Ltd. plunged 17 percent after a report the maker of industrial ceramics asked customers not to use some of its batteries following a fire. Komatsu Ltd., the world’s second-biggest construction machinery maker, rose 3.1 percent as rival Caterpillar Inc.’s posted earnings that beat estimates. Cnooc Ltd., China’s largest offshore energy explorer, rose 5.4 percent in Hong Kong after crude prices gained.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index was little changed at 119.23 at 8:48 p.m. in Tokyo after rising and falling as much as 0.3 percent. About five stocks fell for every four that rose on the index, with six of the gauge’s 10 industry groups retreating. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and fellow European leaders will meet in Brussels tomorrow for a second summit in four days to find ways to enhance the firepower of a regional rescue fund.
“Clearly, the dominant factor is what’s happening in Europe,” said Angus Gluskie, who manages more than $350 million at White Funds Management in Sydney. “At this stage, I think there is some superficial optimism that some sort of deal might be reached. Underneath the surface, though, I think investors still have a lot of questions in the back of their minds and they are alert to risks. Most investors want to get their minds around details tomorrow.”
European leaders are still negotiating with banks over the size of losses they take on Greek bonds while deliberating over whether the region’s rescue fund will guarantee losses for banks that lend to debt-stricken countries in the region.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index rose 0.3 percent today after the index rose 1.3 percent yesterday in New York. Caterpillar, the world’s largest construction and mining-equipment maker, rallied 5 percent after saying third-quarter profit jumped 44 percent to $1.14 billion, beating analysts’ estimates for $1.05 billion.
“One of the most positive signs of the rally is the fact that it was not solely built on Europe optimism,” said Stan Shamu, a strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne. “The fact that U.S. companies are continuing to report strong earnings and are flush with cash is a very bullish sign going forward. Investors are increasingly beginning to believe that European leaders will succeed in preventing a spread of the region’s debt crisis.”
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.9 percent today, while South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.5 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.6 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rose 1.1 percent after a late surge.
Asian exporters to Europe fell. Esprit Holdings lost 3.2 percent to HK$10.42. Canon Inc., second only to Nippon Sheet Glass Co. on the benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average in percentage of revenue generated in Europe, slid 1.8 percent to 3,490 yen. Mazda Motor Corp., the Japanese carmaker that gets 18 percent of sales from Europe, declined 3.1 percent to 157 yen.
NGK Insulators plunged in Tokyo trading after the Nikkei newspaper reported the company asked customers not to use some of its batteries following a fire at a Mitsubishi Materials plant. The stock slid 17 percent to 926 yen after slumping as much as 27 percent, the biggest drop since at least 1974, according to Bloomberg data.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 13 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 0.3 percent loss by the S&P 500 and a 12 percent drop by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.1 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 12.6 times for the S&P 500 and 10.4 times for the Stoxx 600.
Makers of building equipment rose today after Caterpillar topped earnings estimates. Komatsu rose 3.1 percent to 1,833 yen, while Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. gained 2.7 percent 1,433 yen. Kubota Corp. increased 1.6 percent to 635 yen.
Energy firms advanced after crude oil prices increased. Cnooc rose 5.4 percent to HK$14.42 in Hong Kong. Inpex Corp., Japan’s biggest energy explorer, climbed 1.9 percent to 528,000 yen in Tokyo.
Crude oil for December delivery rose $3.87 to $91.27 a barrel yesterday on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest settlement price since Aug. 3.
Olympus Corp. surged 8.2 percent to 1,189 yen in Tokyo, rebounding from a seven-day, 53 percent rout, after brokers were told by Japan Securities Finance Co., a provider of stock-lending services, that limits may be imposed on the number of shares available for trading through margin accounts. The maker of cameras and endoscopes is under fire from shareholders amid investigations into $687 million in payments to advisers on a 2008 acquisition.
The request could discourage investors using borrowed shares to sell Olympus through margin transactions, reducing downward pressure on the share price, according to Fumiyuki Nakanishi, a strategist at Tokyo-based SMBC Friend Securities Co. Olympus lost more than $4.5 billion in market value since president Michael Woodford was ousted on Oct. 14 for challenging the payments.