Asia Stocks Fall as China Growth Concern Tempers Bernanke

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke
Ben S. Bernanke, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

Asian stocks declined after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao warned of a “severe” jobs outlook and amid concern Asian companies’ profits are falling. Exporters to the U.S. gained as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said the central bank is prepared to act to spur growth.

Huaneng Renewables Corp Ltd., an alternative energy company, slumped 14 percent in Hong Kong after saying profit may fall more than 50 percent. Japanese utilities extended losses for a second day after a report that a fault line is active beneath a nuclear plant. Nissan Motor Co., which gets a third of its revenue from North America, rose 1.9 percent in Tokyo.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.5 percent to 115.55 as of 6:44 p.m. in Tokyo, after rising as much as 0.4 percent. Shares advanced in the past three sessions amid optimism China’s policy makers will take more steps to support growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

“China’s authorities are showing they will respond with further policy easing as they are required, but that’s an overly positive outlook because the economy needs to deteriorate to get the central bank to do stimulus,” said Stephen Halmarick, Sydney-based head of investment market research at Colonial First State Global Asset Management, which oversees about $150 billion. Bernanke “continued to indicate that the Fed would ease policy further if they thought that was necessary.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 10 percent from this year’s high on Feb. 29 through yesterday as Chinese companies issued profit warnings as the nation’s economic growth slows, and amid concerns about Europe’s debt crisis.

Relative Value

The Asian benchmark, which contains some companies from emerging market, trades for 11.8 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 13.1 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 10.8 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.3 percent, reversing earlier gains. South Korea’s Kospi Index slid 1.5 percent after the Korean Central News Agency said North Korea officially made leader Kim Jong Un the nation’s Marshal.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 1.1 percent as Chinese developers fell after a report showing rising new home prices in some mainland cities spurred speculation the government has less scope for further easing.

China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.4 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 0.4 percent.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index climbed 0.1 percent for its 14th advance in 16 days. The gauge is the second-best performing developed market index after Denmark’s this year.

China Jobs

China’s labor situation will become more “severe” and the government will continue to implement a more “proactive” labor policy, Premier Wen said yesterday, according to a statement posted on the central government’s website. The comments build on the premier’s warning published three days ago that the nation’s economic rebound lacks momentum and difficulties may persist for a while.

Australian miners BHP Billiton Ltd. and Rio Tinto Group, which get more than a quarter of their sales from China, slid 2 percent to A$30.18 and 3.1 percent to A$52.78 respectively.

China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd., the biggest Hong Kong-listed mainland developer by value, slumped 4 percent to HK$17.80 while China Resources Land Ltd. declined 5.9 percent to HK$14.92.

China’s home-price rebound makes it more difficult for the government to loosen policies aimed at restricting gains in the property sector, said Nomura Holdings Inc. economist Zhang Zhiwei. Prices climbed in 25 cities out of the 70 the government looks at and fell in 21 from a month earlier, according to data released by the statistics bureau today.

Profit Warning

Huaneng Renewables retreated 14 percent to HK$1 in Hong Kong. The company said it expects profit for the six months ended June to drop by more than 50 percent from a year earlier on intensified electricity output constraints and a decrease in wind speed.

Hyundai Development Co., an apartment and housing constructor, slumped 3.6 percent to 21,400 won in Seoul after Kyobo Securities Co. cut its target price by 42 percent to 26,000 won, citing a weaker earnings outlook.

Japanese nuclear power generator Hokuriku Electric Power Co. plunged 21 percent to 877 yen. Kansai Electric Power Co. slumped 6.3 percent to 758 yen, extending yesterday’s losses. Regulators will ask the utilities to conduct studies after a re-examination of surveys showed that a fault line under a Hokuriku Electric nuclear plant is probably active, Nikkei reported, without attribution.

S&P Futures

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index slid 0.1 percent today. The index climbed 0.7 percent in New York yesterday after a report showed the cost of living in the U.S. was little changed in June.

Bernanke told the Senate Banking Committee in Washington yesterday that easing tools include further purchases of assets, cutting the interest rate the Fed pays on reserves banks keep with the central bank, and altering its communications on the outlook for interest rates.

Nissan Motor rose 1.9 percent to 713 yen in Tokyo. James Hardie Industries SE, a building-products maker that receives about two-thirds of its sales from the U.S., rose 1.9 percent to A$8.20 in Sydney. Techtronic Industries Co., the maker of Ryobi power tools that gets 72 percent of revenue from the U.S., added 4.9 percent to HK$9.90.

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