Asian Stocks Fall, Led by Health-Care, Technology Shares

Asian stocks fell, with the regional gauge heading for its first drop in four days, led by health-care stocks and information technology shares. Several markets across the region are shut today for a holiday.

Ono Pharmaceutical Co. fell 2.9 percent in Tokyo to lead losses among health-care stocks. Wipro Ltd. declined 5.6 percent in Mumbai after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said the Indian software maker’s first-quarter sales forecast is the weakest in the past four quarters. Japanese consumer-loan providers Acom Co. and Aiful Corp. each jumped at least 7.7 percent after the Nikkei newspaper reported that the ruling party is considering loosening lending restrictions in the sector.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.2 percent to 138.85 as of 5:36 p.m. in Tokyo. U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week and HSBC Holdings Plc’s and Markit Economics Ltd.’s release their preliminary gauge of China factory activity on April 23. About 160 companies on the Topix are due to post earnings this week.

“We are awaiting many events such as the Obama-Abe meeting, Chinese data and earnings this week,” said Hideyuki Ookoshi, general manager at Chibagin Securities Co. “Investors are thinking the market won’t move much, so they’re holding off on making trades.”

The Topix index slid 0.2 percent after rising as much as 0.7 percent. Japan’s trade deficit widened more than forecast last month, adding to challenges for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in steering the economy after the April 1 sales-tax rise.

The data “is consistent with the authorities’ attempt to keep the yen weak and probably push it even weaker as we go through the rest of this year,” Steve Brice, Singapore-based chief investment strategist at Standard Chartered Plc, said on Bloomberg TV. “We expect exports to pick up later in the year as the U.S. economy accelerates.”

China IPOs

China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.5 percent, its biggest decline since March 10, amid concern initial public offerings will draw funds away from existing equities.

“Investors are still mainly concerned about the resumption of IPOs,” said Zhou Lin, an analyst at Huatai Securities Co. in Nanjing. “There are worries about tighter liquidity from the IPOs and that the pace of approvals will be faster than expected. Stocks are likely to fall for the rest of the month.”

The China Securities Regulatory Commission posted IPO prospectuses for 28 companies on its website last week, while the Economic Information Daily reported that a banking regulator has issued guidelines on preferred-share sales for lenders.

Relative Value

South Korea’s Kospi Index slipped 0.3 percent, while Taiwan’s Taiex index lost 0.2 percent. India’s BSE Sensex added 0.3 percent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index swung between gains and losses. The FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index climbed 0.6 percent. Markets in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand are closed today.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index on April 18 traded at 12.7 times estimated earnings, compared with 15.9 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index on April 17, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Many markets were closed at the end of last week for the Easter holiday.

Global markets rose last week as U.S. shares rebounded from a selloff of technology shares and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen reiterated the bank’s commitment to supporting the U.S. recovery. Manufacturing will take center stage this week, with the U.S. projected to fare better, while data from China will probably signal a continued pullback in factory activity.

U.S. Futures

Futures on the S&P 500 added 0.1 percent today. The U.S. equities gauge gained 0.1 percent on April 17 as earnings from General Electric Co. and Morgan Stanley beat estimates.

Healthcare companies led losses among the MSCI Asia Pacific Index’s 10 industry groups. Ono Pharmaceutical slid 2.9 percent to 8,170 yen in Tokyo. Celltrion Inc. fell 2.7 percent to 50,000 won in Seoul.

Wipro sank 5.6 percent to 553.05 rupees in Mumbai to lead declines on the Asia-Pacific gauge. Goldman Sach maintained its sell rating on the stock, saying the software company’s first-quarter sales forecast for IT services was disappointing.

CSC Nanjing Tanker Corp., set to be the first stock delisted from Shanghai’s exchange in seven years, plunged 9.8 percent to 1.47 yuan as it began its final 30 days of trading. The stock had been suspended for a year after a string of losses. A further 29 companies face delisting as China seeks to bolster its financial markets.

Japanese consumer-finance companies were among shares that gained. Acom surged 7.7 percent to 390 yen, while Aiful jumped 11 percent to 346 yen.

The Liberal Democratic Party is considering a proposal to restore the ceiling on interest rates to 29 percent from 20 percent to make it easier for smaller businesses to procure funds, the Nikkei reported on April 19.

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