Asian Stocks Fall as Material, Telecom Shares Lead Losses
Asian shares fell as Japanese shares retreated. Raw-material and telecommunication companies led losses on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index.
BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP) fell 1.3 percent as mining shares posted the largest fall among the 10 industry groups on the regional index. SoftBank Corp. lost 1.3 percent after jumping 4.1 percent yesterday. Panasonic Corp., which is pivoting away from consumer electronics, jumped 5.3 percent in Tokyo on a report it’s in talks with Tesla Motors Inc. to build a U.S. plant to produce batteries for electric cars.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.1 percent to 137.9 as of 7:33 p.m. in Hong Kong, having briefly erased losses earlier. The measure is on course for a 2.3 percent advance this month, the first rise since October.
“Stock indexes are probably now at the levels where investors will want to see some evidence of earnings delivery outside the U.S. before pushing indexes higher,” Matthew Sherwood, who helps manage about $25 billion as the Sydney-based head of investment markets research at Perpetual Ltd., said in an e-mail.
Japan’s Topix index slid 0.7 percent today on trading volume 29 percent less than its 30-day average. The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index rose 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index gained 0.1 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index rose 0.3 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index declined 0.5 percent.
The Shanghai Composite gained 0.4 percent, halting a four-day losing streak during which it led declines among global equity indexes. Benchmark money-market rates fell to a seven-month low as central bank efforts to weaken the yuan boosted the supply of cash in the financial system.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in Hong Kong rose 0.7 percent, gaining for the first time in seven days. The measure has tumbled 9.3 percent this year. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.5 percent.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 5.9 percent from this year’s low on Feb. 4, leaving the gauge trading at 13 times the estimated earnings of its constituent companies, compared with 15.7 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 14.5 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Of the 394 companies on the Asia-Pacific measure that have reported quarterly earnings since the start of the year and for which Bloomberg compiles estimates, 53 percent topped profit forecasts.
Futures on the S&P 500 climbed 0.2 percent today. The U.S. equities gauge slid 0.1 percent yesterday after data showed slower growth in home prices and a drop in consumer confidence. The index briefly surpassed its record closing high and then erased gains in the afternoon.
Investors are taking advantage of near-record U.S. stock prices to book gains. About $1.7 billion was taken out of U.S. equity exchange-traded funds on Feb. 24, bringing total withdrawals to almost $6 billion in February, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
A MSCI gauge tracking raw-material companies fell 0.7 percent with BHP losing 1.3 percent to A$38.58, while a measure of telecommunication shares lost 0.4 percent. SoftBank fell 1.3 percent to 7,990 yen after jumping yesterday as people with knowledge of the matter said the Japanese mobile-phone company is seeking to buy a stake in instant messaging service Line Corp.
Panasonic (6752) rose 5.3 percent to 1,259 yen. The firm is in talks with Tesla to start a lithium-ion battery plant in 2017 with total investment greater than 100 billion yen ($977 million), the Nikkei newspaper reported.
WorleyParsons surged 11 percent to A$17.13 as the firm reaffirmed its outlook for the remainder of 2014 and reported a larger-than-forecast interim dividend.
Lend Lease Group fell 3.7 percent to A$11.14 in Sydney after Australia’s biggest listed property developer reported a 16 percent drop in first-half profit.
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