Asian stocks dropped this week, matching the six-week losing streak in the aftermath of the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc in 2008, amid concern a slowing US economic recovery will stifle global growth.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index declined 1.4 percent to 132.08 over the week after the US jobless rate unexpectedly climbed and US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave no hint of a new round of economic stimulus even as the nation’s recovery slows. The gauge fell 0.3 percent last week as reports showed US manufacturing expanded at the weakest pace in more than a year and employers hired fewer workers than forecast.
“Bernanke’s somber outlook combined with no hint of further quantitative easing being used as a policy response near-term have led to a negative tone in markets,” said Tim Schroeders, who helps manage about US$1 billion in global equities at Pengana Capital Ltd in Melbourne. “In a glass-half-empty environment, investors globally are adopting a much more cautious stance.”
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.5 percent this week. South Korea’s KOSPI slumped 3.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2.3 percent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 0.2 percent.
The Nikkei posted its fourth straight rise after taking several blows in recent weeks over fears for the local economy.
“The Nikkei has ended in positive territory ... despite a series of falls in US stocks because Japan shares are seen as undervalued,” said Toshiyuki Kanayama, market analyst at Monex.
Investors in Hong Kong and Shanghai were edgy as they looked to Tuesday’s release of key inflation figures from Beijing to see if the government’s tightening measures to cool the economy have worked.
Seoul, which had been more than 1 percent higher in the early morning on Friday, slumped after the central bank said it would hike interest rates 0.25 percentage points as it tries to battle inflation.
Meanwhile, Taipei tumbled 1.81 percent, or 163.12 points, to 8,837.82 off a high of 9,053.39, on turnover of NT$111.43 billion (US$3.87 billion) on Friday, led by the bellwether electronics sector, after Goldman Sachs cut its target price on smartphone maker HTC Corp because of concerns over its tablet computer sales, dealers said. The TAIEX shed 2.3 percent for the week.
As part of the downgrade, Goldman Sachs also removed HTC from its Asia-Pacific “conviction buy list.”
The sell-off spread to other large cap high-tech stocks on Friday and extended across the board until the end of the session, with the index falling and moving toward the 8,800 point mark.
“The downgrade by Goldman Sachs on HTC came as a surprise as the market had high hopes that the company would continue to break its monthly sales records,” Concord Securities analyst Kerry Huang said.
In other markets on Friday:
‧ Manila fell 0.11 percent, or 4.76 points, from Thursday at 4,219.58.
‧ Wellington closed flat, edging up 1.87 points from Thursday to 3,490.62.
‧ Mumbai fell 0.63 percent, or 116.36 points, from Thursday to 18,268.54, its third straight day of losses.