Asia Stocks Fall as Japan Goes Ex-Dividend, China Shares Slide

  • ANZ Bank, CBA, Westpac lead Australian bank shares lower
  • Shanghai equities fall for second day as property shares drop

Economic Data Puts Pressure on Japan's Shinzo Abe

Asian stocks fell on low volumes as health-care companies led losses and more than two-thirds of the companies in Japan’s Topix index traded without the right to the next dividend.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.5 percent to 127.49 as of 5:01 p.m. in Tokyo. The gauge is up 7 percent since the start of March, on course for the best month since October. The Topix slid 0.3 percent. Australian bank shares declined as markets reopened after a holiday amid concern bad debt charges will grow. China shares dropped for a second day. Data Monday showed the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation slowed, clouding the outlook for higher interest rates in 2016.

“Much of Wall Street’s rebound, and indeed that of global markets, over the last five weeks has been driven by expectations for continued policy accommodation from the world’s central banks,” said Matthew Sherwood, head of investment strategy at Perpetual Ltd. in Sydney, which manages about $21 billion. “It is no surprise that the market rally is showing signs of fatigue. A weak recovery despite record stimulus remains a tough environment for risk markets.”

Clues on the trajectory of U.S. interest rates will come this week from reports due on employment, manufacturing, housing and consumer confidence. Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to speak at an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday.

Spending Slows

A report Monday showed American personal spending barely increased in February and the prior month’s advance was revised down as consumers saved more of their incomes. A separate measure showed contracts to purchase previously owned homes rebounded more than forecast in February as sales picked up in most of the U.S. Data Friday showed the U.S. economy grew at a faster pace in the fourth quarter than previously estimated.

Some 1,505 of the 1,931 companies in the Topix traded ex-dividend on Tuesday, equating to a 13.2 point drag on the Japanese benchmark measure.

The Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.3 percent as a gauge of small companies slumped and property developers extended losses amid concern new price-cooling measures will hit sales. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.1 percent and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in the former British colony rose 0.3 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.6 percent, led by banks. Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. declined 3.4 percent, adding to a 5.2 percent slump on Thursday after its surprise warning of a blowout in bad-debt charges. Rival Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 2.3 percent and Westpac Banking Corp. slid 3 percent.

NTT Data Corp., a unit of Japan’s former telephone monopoly, climbed 2.1 percent in Tokyo after agreeing to buy Dell Inc.’s information-technology services businesses for $3.06 billion as it expands sales outside Japan.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 0.2 percent and India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index was little changed. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.6 percent. New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 Index added 0.2 percent to close at a record high. 

E-mini futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.1 percent after the underlying gauge eked out a 0.1 percent gain on Monday, climbing for the first time in four days. About 5.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, the fewest since Dec. 30.

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