Sun, Apr 07, 2013 - Page 15 News List

Asian stocks spooked by bird flu

‘PANIC MODE’:Despite the Nikkei’s advance, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 1.5 percent, as fears over another avian flu epidemic muffled trading in the region

Bloomberg and AFP

Asian stocks fell this week as a fatal bird flu outbreak in China outweighed a surge in Japanese shares sparked by unprecedented stimulus from the Bank of Japan’s (BOJ) new leadership.

Air China Ltd (中國國際航空), Asia’s biggest carrier by market value, plunged 12 percent, amid concern a strain of bird flu that has killed six people in China may become an epidemic. Toyota Motor Corp, the world’s largest carmaker, jumped 4.7 percent as the yen fell against all its major peers.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 1.5 percent to 133.49 this week, erasing last week’s gain. Shares jumped in Japan after the BOJ said it would double the monetary base by the end of next year in its biggest round of quantitative easing.

“We are pretty much in a panic mode from a possible epidemic from the new bird flu in China.” said Jackson Wong, vice president at Hong Kong-based brokerage Tanrich Securities Co. “When you look at the Japanese stimulus program, it will only help Japan for the time being, especially short term.”

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index has added about 3.6 percent this year, less than half the gains on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, amid concern China will move to cool its property market. Asia’s benchmark trades at 13.4 times average estimated earnings, compared with multiples of 14 for the S&P 500 and 12.3 for the STOXX Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average, the best-performing major equity gauge this year, finished the week at its highest level since Sept. 1, 2008, adding 3.5 percent. The measure has rallied 48 percent since mid-November amid bets policymakers would make good on new BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s pledge to do “whatever it takes” to beat deflation.

Taiwan’s TAIEX rose 0.3 percent in a shortened trading week, its second consecutive weekly advance. The index closed on Wednesday at 7,942.35.

Every other major market in Asia fell. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slid 1.5 percent, its fourth straight weekly decline. Singapore’s Straits Times Index slid 0.3 percent.

South Korea’s KOSPI declined 3.9 percent, as North Korea moved a missile to its eastern coast, possibly for training and test-firing, and warned it was poised to conduct a “smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 2.6 percent to its lowest level since November, as China on Friday reported six deaths from a new strain of bird flu. The Shanghai Composite Index, which was closed for holiday on Thursday and Friday, fell 0.5 percent on the week.

In other markets on Friday:

Wellington ended flat from Thursday, adding 2.81 points to 4,432.97.

Manila closed 0.83 percent lower from Thursday, shedding 56.58 percent to 6,727.14.

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