Asia Stocks Fall as Investors Weigh China Data, Quake Hits Japan

  • Japan's Topix falls for first time in four days after quake
  • Taiwan Semiconductor declines after earnings trail estimates

Asian stocks fell, retreating from the highest level in four months, as investors assessed a torrent of Chinese data, Japanese shares dropped after an earthquake and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. missed earnings estimates.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.2 percent to 131.98 as of 5:02 p.m. in Tokyo, slipping from its highest level since December and trimming its gain for the week to 4.5 percent. The Topix index dropped 0.7 percent to pare its best weekly gain since February, after an earthquake hit southern Japan on Thursday, killing at least nine people.

Data showed China’s economy stabilized last quarter as the property sector rebounded, markets steadied, and loose monetary policy helped spur an improvement in factory conditions.

“The Chinese government will feel that the existing policies are working,” said Andrew Sullivan, managing director for sales trading at Haitong International Securities Group in Hong Kong. “So there is less potential for more easing in the short term.”

The Asia Pacific gauge has surged 17 percent since Feb. 12., this week recouping all of its losses for 2016, as the Federal Reserve reassured investors that it won’t rush to increase borrowing costs and a rebound in commodity prices lifted mining and oil producers.

China gross domestic product rose 6.7 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the statistics authority announced Friday, meeting the median projection of economists Bloomberg surveyed and in-line with the government growth target of 6.5 percent to 7 percent for the full year. Industrial output, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all picked up in March.

“Investors are still skeptical of the sustainability of such an improvement,” said Ben Kwong, a director at brokerage KGI Asia Ltd. in Hong Kong. “There’s some profit-taking pressure because of cumulative gains in a row.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1 percent, its first decline in eight days. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index dropped 0.3 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.1 percent.

A magnitude 6.5 earthquake in southern Japan on Thursday night caused the strongest shaking since the 2011 disaster. More than 750 people were injured, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a televised briefing Friday morning. There were no reports of damage to Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear reactors, the only operating atomic plants in Japan.

The Topix slid, paring this week’s gain to 5.7 percent. The yen traded at 109.32 per dollar after falling for three days. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda told reporters in Washington that excessive yen gains have corrected somewhat in the past few days.

TSMC Earnings

Taiwan’s Taiex index added 0.4 percent. TSMC, the world’s largest contract chipmaker, sank 1.2 percent after forecasting second-quarter sales below analyst estimates on decelerating smartphone demand and sliding personal computer shipments. The stock was among the biggest drags on the MSCI Asia Pacific index.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.8 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index lost 0.1 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index gained 0.3 percent. New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index added 0.3 percent, closing at a record high.

E-mini contracts on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were down 0.1 percent after the U.S. benchmark closed flat on Thursday, as investors assessed earnings releases and data showing the labor market is improving with little pickup in inflation.

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