Oct. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index retreating from a five-month high, as investors awaited delayed U.S. payrolls data to gauge when the Federal Reserve will starting trimming record stimulus.
China Mobile Ltd., the world’s largest phone company, dropped 3.4 percent in Hong Kong after posting its biggest profit decline since 1999. Shinhan Financial Group Co. fell 2.9 percent after BNP Paribas SA was said to be selling shares of South Korea’s biggest bank at a discount. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s No. 1 mining company, gained 2.4 percent in Sydney after increasing its forecast for iron-ore production.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 143.62 as of 7:45 p.m. in Tokyo, with seven of the 10 industry groups on the measure retreating. The gauge closed yesterday at its highest since May 21 as investors shifted their focus from the resolution of the U.S. fiscal showdown to the timeline for the Fed reducing bond buying.
“There’s a lack of catalysts,” said Toshiyuki Kanayama, a senior market analyst at Monex Securities Inc. “Investors may be on the sidelines to see the U.S. jobs data.”
China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent. Home prices in China’s four major cities jumped the most since January 2011, heightening concerns a bubble is forming as the government refrains from introducing more property curbs that could hinder economic growth.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.5 percent. Japan’s Topix index gained 0.2 percent, while South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.2 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex was little changed, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.5 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.4 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.6 percent to extend a record high.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 3.7 percent this month after the U.S. lawmakers ended the government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling, while investors speculated the Fed will delay trimming stimulus. The gauge traded at 13.8 times estimated earnings compared with 15.8 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 14.7 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
S&P 500 futures were little changed today. The U.S. equity gauge rose less than 1 point in New York yesterday as investors watched corporate earnings to assess the strength of the economy before today’s employment data.
The Labor Department report will probably show employers added 180,000 workers in September, the most since April, after a 169,000 gain in August, according to the median estimate of 93 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The report, originally due Oct. 4, was delayed by the Oct. 1-Oct. 17 partial government shutdown.
The Federal Reserve won’t taper bond purchases until March because the shutdown probably slowed fourth-quarter U.S. growth and also interrupted the flow of data, according to a Bloomberg survey. The monthly pace of asset buying will be pared to $70 billion from $85 billion at the Fed’s March 18-19 meeting, the median of 40 economist estimates shows.
“It’s a good environment for equities because tapering expectations have been pushed out to next year,” Sean Fenton, a Sydney-based fund manager, who helps oversee about $1 billion at Tribeca Investment Partners Ltd., said by telephone. “We still see markets trending higher and there’s nothing particular out there that’s worrying us in the short term. Growth in the U.S. is steady without being spectacular, so the support remains from the Fed, with very easy monetary conditions.”
China Mobile sank 3.4 percent to HK$82.15, the lowest close since Aug. 7. Net income fell 8.8 percent to 28.4 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in the third quarter, according to figures derived from nine-month results released by the Beijing-based company yesterday. The profit missed the 31.1 billion-yuan average of five analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.
Chinese real estate companies declined as surging home prices spurred speculation the government may introduce additional property curbs. China Resources Land Ltd., the second-largest mainland developer traded in Hong Kong, lost 1 percent to HK$22.45. Guangzhou R&F Properties Co. slipped 1.8 percent to HK$13.28.
“The housing price data add policy risks to the market and investors anticipate the government will probably tighten controls over the real estate industry,” said Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based money manager at Dragon Life Insurance Co., which oversees $3.3 billion.
Shinhan Financial fell 2.9 percent to 47,250 won in Seoul. BNP Paribas, which owns 6.35 percent stake in Shinhan Financial, plans to sell part of its stake in a block sale, according to a term sheet obtained by Bloomberg News. The price likely to be set between 47,000 won to 48,650 won per share.
BHP Billiton gained 2.4 percent to A$37.05. The miner raised its full-year iron-ore production forecast to 212 million tons from 207 million tons after output for the industrial material jumped 23 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30.
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