Asian Stocks Fall as U.S. Vows to Hold Syria AccountableYoshiaki Nohara and Adam Haigh
Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index snapping a two-day gain, after the U.S. pledged to hold Syria’s government to account for deadly chemical-weapons attacks on its people, damping investors’ risk appetite.
Billabong International Ltd., an Australian surf-wear company, slumped 5.3 percent after it posted a loss more than three times its market value and said its core brand was worthless. ENN Energy Holdings Ltd. fell 5.4 percent in Hong Kong after the gas-pipeline operator’s first-half net income missed estimates. Tokyo Electric Power Co. jumped 12 percent after the government said it would take over handling radioactive spills at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.6 percent to 130.84 as of 7:37 p.m. in Tokyo, with about three shares dropping for each that gained on the gauge.
“There’s uncertainty over the geopolitical issues,” Angus Gluskie, chief investment officer at White Funds Management in Sydney, where he helps oversee about $500 million, said by telephone. “It’s a destabilizing factor. Many people like us would be saying let’s stand on the sidelines. At the moment, we’re not putting more money back into equities.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.6 percent. Trading of PetroChina Co. and Kunlun Energy Co., a unit of PetroChina, was suspended.
PetroChina, the nation’s biggest energy producer, announced after the close that three executives under investigation resigned. The company was planning management changed at its Daqing oilfield after a government probe of the unit’s top executive, said two people familiar with the situation.
Japan’s Topix index slid 0.5 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.9 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index dropped 1.6 percent, falling a ninth day, its longest losing streak since September 2002. South Korea’s Kospi Index fell 0.1 percent as data showed the nation’s consumer confidence was unchanged in August.
The S&P BSE Sensex plunged 3.2 percent in Mumbai after the rupee weakened and the Indian government passed legislation expanding the world’s largest food program.
New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.1 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent as data showed July profit at industrial companies gained 11.6 percent from a year earlier.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell 0.6 percent today. The measure lost 0.4 percent yesterday, reversing gains. In the strongest terms yet from a U.S. official, Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday denounced an attack last week on a Damascus suburb as a “cowardly crime” requiring a response against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The Asia-Pacific gauge has risen 1.1 percent so far this year, lagging a 16 percent surge in the S&P 500 through yesterday, as growth slows in China and speculation that the Federal Reserve will curb economic stimulus spurs investors to sell assets across Asia and emerging markets.
“While tapering is inevitable, timing remains uncertain and data-dependent,” Donald Williams, Sydney-based chief investment officer at Platypus Asset Management Ltd., which manages about $1 billion, wrote in an e-mail. “By the time it starts, it will be priced into stocks.”
The MSCI Asia Pacific index trades at 12.8 times estimated earnings, compared with 15 for the S&P 500 and 13.7 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Billabong lost 5.3 percent to 53.5 Australian cents. The company said its 40-year-old surf brand was worthless after the company’s losses tripled amid store closures, firings and a breach of debt terms.
ENN Energy slid 5.4 percent to HK$38.45 after reporting a lower-than-expected 737 million yuan ($120 million) net income for the first half.
China Southern Airlines Co. slid 3.8 percent to HK$2.81 after Asia’s biggest carrier by traffic reported first-half profit dropped 19 percent to 344 million yuan, missing analysts’ estimates.
Tokyo Electric jumped 12 percent to 531 yen as Japan’s government said it will lead “emergency measures” to tackle radioactive water spills at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant.
People’s Insurance Company (Group) of China Ltd., parent of the nation’s biggest non-life insurer, rose 1.6 percent to HK$3.80 in Hong Kong, the highest close since June 6. The company reported a better-than-expected 53 percent jump in profit.