Asian Stocks Little Changed as Energy Slides Before ECB

Asia’s stock benchmark index was little changed as energy and health-care shares retreated, while materials companies led advances before a European Central Bank policy decision.

China Oilfield Services Ltd. sank 3.4 percent in Hong Kong, with energy the second-worst performing of 10 industry groups in the region. LG Household & Health Care Ltd. slumped 12 percent, the most in more than four months, after the South Korean company’s vice chairman sold shares. Samsung SDI Co. rose 6.7 percent in Seoul after saying it will sell shares to Samsung Electronics Co.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 0.1 percent to 142.99 as of 5:54 p.m. in Hong Kong after earlier falling as much as 0.2 percent. The gauge advanced the most since September last month amid optimism China will add stimulus to prop up growth. Yesterday’s better-than-forecast data on U.S. service industries comes before tomorrow’s monthly jobs report.

“The U.S. economy isn’t shooting the lights out, but growth in the second half will be decent enough to justify the Fed winding back quantitative easing,” Tony Farnham, a Sydney-based strategist at Patersons Securities Ltd., said in a phone interview. “No one wants to bravely put on a large position ahead of the ECB decision today.”

Regional Gauges

Japan’s Topix index slid 0.1 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index closed little changed, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index retreated 0.2 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index lost 0.7 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index was little changed and Taiwan’s Taiex index rose 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index retreated 0.2 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite climbed 0.8 percent. Thailand’s SET Index gained 0.3 percent and India’s BSE S&P Sensex Index advanced 0.9 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed today after the U.S. gauge closed yesterday at a record high. Service industries in the U.S. expanded at the fastest pace in nine months in May. A private report showed employment rose less than economists projected, before the government releases monthly payrolls data tomorrow.

U.S. Recovery

The Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book review of regional conditions that the world’s largest economy expanded at a modest to moderate pace last month. The Beige Book, released two weeks before policy makers meet, supported Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s view that the U.S. economy is rebounding from a 1 percent contraction in the first quarter caused largely by harsh winter weather.

The ECB may become the first major central bank to take interest rates negative today as President Mario Draghi seeks to ward off deflation in the euro area.

The Asia-Pacific index traded at 13.2 times estimated earnings compared with 16.3 times for the S&P 500 and 15.4 on the Europe Stoxx 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Energy shares were among the worst performers in Asia today. China Oilfield Services declined 3.4 percent to HK$19.10 in Hong Kong. SK Innovation Co. fell 3.3 percent to 99,600 won in Seoul and PTT Exploration & Production Pcl, Thailand’s biggest publicly listed oil and natural gas explorer, sank 2.2 percent to 155 baht.

LG Household

LG Household & Health Care retreated 12 percent to 472,500 won in Seoul after the cosmetics maker’s vice chairman sold most of his shares.

Samsung SDI advanced 6.7 percent to 168,500 won and Cheil Industries Inc. gained 6.4 percent to 73,400 won. Both South Korean companies said on June 3 they will sell treasury shares to Samsung Electronics.

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