Asian telecommunication companies and banks slid on the regional benchmark gauge, while BYD Co. jumped. The index swung between gains and losses through the day after the yuan sank by a record.
Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. slipped 2.1 percent as the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in Hong Kong fell 0.7 percent. SoftBank Corp., Japan’s third-largest carrier, fell for a third day, sliding 3.1 percent. BYD, a maker of electric cars, soared 8.1 percent after its 2013 profit surged. James Hardie Industries Plc surged 6.1 percent after the Australian provider of building materials said profit jumped last quarter.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell less than 0.1 percent to 137.95 at 7:27 p.m. in Hong Kong after rising as much as 0.2 percent. The benchmark rose 0.4 percent this week and 2.3 percent in February for its first monthly gain since October. The yuan plunged as much as 0.85 percent to a 10-month low of 6.1808 per dollar in Shanghai, the biggest intra-day loss in China Foreign Exchange Trade System prices going back to 2007. The drop was the biggest since China unified official and market exchange rates at the start of 1994, Bloomberg data show.
“Investors are very jittery about China’s economic outlook,” Shane Oliver, the Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd. in Sydney, which oversees $131 billion, said by phone. “Anything that contributes to uncertainty, whether it’s the currency or money-market rates, just creates a lot of nervousness.”
The yuan has gone from being the most attractive carry-trade bet in emerging markets to the worst in the space of two months as the People’s Bank of China’s efforts to weaken the currency cause volatility to surge. The central bank is forecast to double the yuan’s trading band in the coming quarter as policy makers loosen exchange-rate controls to promote greater usage of the currency in global trade and finance. The National People’s Congress annual gathering begins March 5.
Agricultural Bank slid 2.1 percent to HK$3.29 in Hong Kong. China Citic Bank Corp., a unit of the nation’s largest state-owned investment firm, dropped 3.9 percent to HK$4.17.
“We are seeing this volatility going into the National People’s Congress meeting,” Chris Weston, a Melbourne-based chief market strategist at IG Ltd, said by phone. “There’s also been some strength in the yen on the back on this and anyone who is a major trading partner with China is going to see this as a negative situation.”
Japan’s Topix index declined 0.5 percent today, with the gauge on course to be the only one of 24 developed markets tracked by Bloomberg News to fall in February. The measure is down 0.7 percent this month. The yen today rose as much as 0.6 percent to 101.56 per dollar.
SoftBank dropped 3.1 percent to 7,668 yen in Tokyo today. China Communications Services Corp. slid 4.7 percent, while Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. lost 1.4 percent to S$3.60.
Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.5 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.1 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index advanced 0.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was little changed. Taiwan’s equity market was closed for a holiday.
A gauge of Chinese manufacturing due tomorrow may fall to a 17-month low, according to economists surveyed by Bloomberg. A private index due next week is projected to show factory output shrank a second month.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has risen 6 percent from this year’s low on Feb. 4, leaving the gauge trading at 12.9 times the estimated earnings of its constituent companies.
BYD jumped 8.1 percent to HK$51.20, the second-steepest gain on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, after its 2013 profit jumped to 552.8 million yuan ($90 million) from 81.4 million yuan a year earlier. Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Co., a Chinese construction equipment maker that sank to a seven-month low yesterday, jumped 8.8 percent today to become the best performer on Asia’s regional gauge.
James Hardie increased 6.1 percent to A$14.50 in Sydney after saying third-quarter operating profit excluding some items surged 64 percent to $43.7 million from a year earlier.