Tue, Aug 08, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Asian stocks see biggest decline in three weeks

EYES ON US Investor concern over a weakening US economy, plus a jump in oil prices following reports that an Alaskan pipeline would be closed, hurt bourses


Asian stocks had their biggest drop in almost three weeks yesterday. Advantest Corp and Samsung Electronics Co slid after a US jobs report fueled concern higher interest rates are curbing growth in the world's biggest economy.

"The underlying reason for the bearish markets is investor concern that a weakened US economy will hit earnings later this year," said Koichi Takatsuka, a fund manager who oversees US$1 billion at UAM Japan Inc in Tokyo.

A jump in crude-oil costs, triggered by BP Plc's announcement it will shut the largest oil field in the US, contributed to slides in carriers including China Southern Airlines Co (南方航空) and Korean Air Lines Co.

China Southern, the PRC's biggest carrier by fleet size, fell 0.6 percent to HK$1.71 (US$0.22) on concern higher oil prices will raise fuel costs.

"It's a major raw-materials cost, and it's going to hurt," said Andrew Sullivan, head of sales trading at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co in Hong Kong.

Korean Air, the world's largest commercial airline cargo operator, dropped 3.5 percent to 30,650 won (US$31.76).

Shares of oil producers gained.

The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index lost 1.6 percent to 124.57 at 7:15pm in Tokyo, the biggest slide since July 18. Nine of the index's 10 industry groups fell, while a measure of energy stocks was little changed.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 2.2 percent to 15,154.06. Share indexes also fell in China, India, New Zealand, Singapore and South Korea.

Toyota Motor Corp, the world's biggest carmaker by value, advanced 0.8 percent to ?6,030 (US$52.80). after reporting higher-than-expected earnings.

In the US, government reports showed employers added 113,000 jobs in July, fewer than the 144,000 forecast by economists in a Bloomberg survey. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell as concerns that the US Federal Reserve's 17 straight increases in interest rates may cause slower economic growth outweighed anticipation that the central bank will avoid raising rates again this week.

Advantest, the world's biggest maker of memory-chip testing equipment, slid 4.9 percent to ?10,370.

Komatsu Ltd, the second-largest maker of earthmoving equipment, lost 2.2 percent to ?2,180.

Regional currencies' gains against the dollar, which erode the value of US sales, also weighed on exporters. The dollar recently traded at ?114.72, 0.7 percent weaker than it was late Aug. 4 in Tokyo. Versus the won, it's lost 0.2 percent.

"The stronger currency is negative for exporters and raises concern about their earnings outlook," said Kim Yung Min, who helps oversee US$1 billion at Korea Investment Trust Management Co in Seoul.

Samsung Electronics, South Korea's largest exporter, lost 1.5 percent to 606,000 won. LG.Philips LCD Co, the world's second-biggest maker of liquid-crystal displays, slid 3.1 percent to 34,400 won.

Woodside Petroleum Ltd, Australia's second-largest oil producer after BHP Billiton, added 1.9 percent to A$42.51 (US$32.55). CNOOC Ltd (中國海洋石油), China's biggest offshore oil producer, added 1.4 percent to HK$6.74 in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, Giordano International Ltd (佐丹奴國際) surged 18 percent to HK$4.80 after the clothing retailer said it had been approached by Japan's Fast Retailing Co about a possible acquisition.

Fast Retailing, Asia's largest clothing retailer, slid 2.5 percent to ?9,380.

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