July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks were little changed, after the regional benchmark index touched a six-year high, as material and industrial shares rose and technology firms slid.
BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest miner, climbed to a five-month high and Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. gained 1.8 percent in Sydney as iron-ore prices held near their highest in seven weeks. Kunlun Energy Co. surged 7.4 percent in Hong Kong on speculation it will acquire a gas distributor. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. fell 4.6 percent after the world’s largest contract maker of chips said it will face stiffer competition next year.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost less than 0.1 percent to 147.18 as of 4:03 p.m. in Hong Kong, reversing gains of as much as 0.4 percent that pushed the measure to its highest intraday level since June 2008. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen yesterday said asset valuations in general aren’t out of line with historical norms after the central bank the day before indicated prices for smaller U.S. social-media and biotechnology companies are substantially stretched.
“The market can still rally in front of an improvement in earnings,” Donald Williams, Sydney-based chief investment officer at Platypus Asset Management Ltd., which oversees about A$1.3 billion ($1.2 billion), said by phone. “With interest rates very low, equities are still a pretty good place to be. The thing that keeps holding up equity valuations is that bond yields are so low globally.”
Japan’s Topix index, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index all closed little changed. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.4 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index declined 0.8 percent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index sank 0.1 percent.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland Chinese stocks slipped 0.1 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index dropped 0.6 percent. India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index added 0.2 percent.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.1 percent. BHP added 0.8 percent to A$38.55 and Fortescue advanced 1.8 percent to A$4.66. Lawmakers voted to scrap a tax on carbon today, dismantling a law that initially charged polluters A$23 ($21.50) per ton of greenhouse gases emitted. AGL Energy Ltd., a gas and electricity distributor, sank 5.5 percent to A$14.91 after saying removal of the levy will lower earnings.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at 13.5 times estimated earnings today, near the highest since December, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with 16.7 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index yesterday, the data show.
Profit at members of the S&P 500 probably rose 4.5 percent in the three months through June, while sales gained 3.1 percent, analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg show.
Futures on the S&P 500 declined 0.2 percent today after the U.S. equities benchmark rose 0.4 percent yesterday.
Taiwan Semi slid 4.6 percent to NT$124.50. Chairman Morris Chang said the company faces stiffer competition and will trail an unidentified rival in 16-nanometer chip output.
Sands China Ltd., controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, lost 1.2 percent to HK$55.75 after the Macau gaming company’s profit missed estimates on lower spending by high-stakes players.
Komatsu Wall Industry Co. slumped 7.6 percent to 2,720 yen in Tokyo after quarterly operating profit dropped at the maker of room partitions.
Kunlun Energy jumped 7.4 percent to HK$13.12. The Hong Kong unit of China National Petroleum Corp. will acquire unlisted PetroChina Kunlun Gas Co., according to officials familiar with the project. CNPC, the nation’s largest energy producer, aims to form a single natural-gas company to compete with private rivals before an inflow of Russian fuel at the end of the decade.
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