Asian Stocks Decline to Two-Month Low Amid Syria Tensions

Asian stocks slumped, with the regional benchmark index closing at its lowest level in two months, on concern the U.S. will take military action against Syria for using chemical weapons.

Honda Motor Co., which gets 83 percent of its revenue abroad, lost 2.4 percent in Tokyo after the yen gained. PetroChina Co., the nation’s biggest energy producer, dropped 4.4 percent in Hong Kong after saying senior managers had resigned or been ousted amid an investigation by authorities. New China Life Insurance Co., the country’s third-largest life insurer by premium income last year, fell 3.5 percent in Hong Kong after first-half profit missed analyst estimates.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.5 percent to 129.27 as of 7:31 p.m. in Tokyo, its lowest close since June 27, as more than four shares fell for each that rose. The gauge has declined for eight of the past 10 days as the prospect of the Federal Reserve paring stimulus as soon as next month spurs investors to shun riskier assets.

“The situation in the Middle East is not stable right now,” said Linus Yip, chief strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. “A correction was already happening across the region due to the Fed. Right now the bad news is coming out of Syria and it’s accelerating the correction.”

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today. The measure slid 1.6 percent yesterday, the most since June 20, as the U.S., France and Britain stepped closer to a military strike against Syria after concluding the regime used chemical weapons against civilians. Data yesterday showed consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in August as Americans grew more optimistic about the outlook for the economy.

Regional Gauges

Japan’s Topix index slid 1.8 percent after the yen gained the most in 2 1/2 months against the dollar yesterday, damping the earnings outlook for exporters. Honda lost 2.4 percent to 3,610 yen and Sony Corp., an electronics maker that generates 68 percent of its revenue overseas, fell 3.4 percent to 1,967 yen.

The S&P BSE Sensex added 0.2 percent in Mumbai. South Korea’s Kospi Index dropped 0.1 percent even as data showed the nation’s manufacturer confidence rebounded from a six-month low.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 1.6 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.1 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index added less than 0.1 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.7 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 retreated 1.1 percent.

Singapore Developers

Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 1 percent, its 10th straight daily decline and longest losing streak since September 2002. A Singapore property index tracking 43 stocks dropped 1.3 percent after the government tightened its public housing policy by reducing tenures for new loans and restricting purchases by foreigners.

CapitaLand Ltd., Singapore’s biggest developer, lost 2.3 percent to S$2.93, its lowest price since July last year. City Developments Ltd., the second-largest, slipped 2.2 percent to S$9.76.

PetroChina dropped 4.4 percent to HK$8.27 after saying three senior managers, including Kunlun Energy Co. Chairman Li Hualin, had resigned and another was fired. PetroChina and unit Kunlun Energy shares were suspended from trading yesterday. Kunlun plummeted 14 percent to HK$10.88.

China Life

New China Life fell 3.5 percent to HK$20.55 after net income rose 15 percent to 2.18 billion yuan ($356 million), missing the 2.38 billion yuan mean estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News.

Among stocks that rose, Fraser & Neave Ltd., controlled by Thailand’s richest man, gained in Singapore on plans to spin off its property business through a Singapore listing at the end of the year. The stock added 4.2 percent to S$5.72.

The Asia-Pacific gauge lost 0.1 percent this year, lagging a 14 percent surge in the S&P 500 Index, as growth slows in China and speculation that the Fed will taper economic stimulus spurred investors to sell assets across Asia and emerging markets.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index traded at 12.6 times estimated earnings, compared with 14.8 for the S&P 500 Index and 13.6 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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