Asia Stocks Fall as Investors Weigh China Growth Goal, U.S. Data

Asian stocks fell as China set the lowest economic growth target in more than 15 years and investors assessed U.S. data on jobs and service industries.

Coal producer China Shenhua Energy Co. and Anhui Conch Cement Co. each slid at least 2.7 percent in Hong Kong. Olympus Corp. slumped 2.9 percent in Tokyo after CNN reported that the company’s endoscopes, which have been linked to two deaths, were allegedly sold without regulatory approval. Hanergy Thin Film Power Group Ltd., China’s biggest solar equipment manufacturer by market value, surged as much as 42 percent to a record in Hong Kong after jumping 22 percent yesterday.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.2 percent to 145.19 as of 7:20 p.m. in Hong Kong. The measure in February posted its biggest monthly advance since September 2013, and is trading at 14.6 times estimated earnings, near an almost two-year high. China’s economic growth goal of about 7 percent, down from last year’s 7.5 percent target, was given in Premier Li Keqiang’s work report at the annual meeting of the legislature in Beijing today.

“It’s important for the government to take timely action to mitigate against the downside risk to growth” in China, Fan Cheuk Wan, Hong Kong-based chief investment officer for Asia Pacific at Credit Suisse Group AG’s private banking and wealth management unit, told Bloomberg TV. “This would underpin the need for the PBOC to ease the liquidity situation. We anticipate another policy rate cut in the next three to six months.”

The People’s Bank of China announced cuts to benchmark interest rates over the weekend before official data showed manufacturing contracted a second month in February.

China Shares

The Shanghai Composite Index slid 1 percent. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland shares listed in Hong Kong lost 1.2 percent, while the benchmark Hang Seng Index slipped 1.1 percent.

Japan’s Topix index rose 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index closed little changed, as did Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index declined 0.3 percent.

Hanergy Thin Film said it wasn’t aware of any reasons for movements in its share price. The stock jumped 14 percent to HK$7.30 at the close as it headed for a 62 percent weekly advance. Hanergy surged to 104 times estimated earnings, up from a multiple of 64.6 on Friday.

Shares of alternative energy companies in China have jumped this week after a documentary investigating the fallout of poor air quality drew millions of viewers, putting a renewed spotlight on pollution as the nation’s lawmakers gathered for the National People’s Congress.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.1 percent after the underlying gauge dropped 0.4 percent yesterday. U.S. companies added fewer workers in February compared with the previous month, figures from ADP Research Institute showed before Friday’s official employment data, while service industries unexpectedly expanded at a faster pace in February.

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