Sun, Jan 05, 2014 - Page 15 News List

Asian stocks see little movement at launch of year

THREATS TO TITANS:The political unrest in Thailand and weak data in China led investors to worry that the top two economies in Asia are facing a big slowdown

Bloomberg, AFP and Staff Writer, with CNA

Asian stocks were little changed this week, with a regional benchmark index easing off a three-week high after gauges showed growth slowing in Chinese manufacturing and as Thai shares dropped amid prolonged political unrest.

China Coal Energy Co (中煤能源), the nation’s No. 2 producer of the fuel, fell 7.4 percent in Hong Kong, while Siam Commercial Bank PCL tumbled 7.7 percent, dragging Thailand’s SET Index 5.7 percent lower amid concern that the instability will spur capital outflows in Southeast Asia’s No. 2 economy.

Among the week’s winners were Newcrest Mining Ltd, which rose 11 percent in Sydney to lead gold producers higher as the precious metal rebounded from its worst year since 1981.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index — excluding Japan — slipped to 140.31 from 140.33 a week earlier. Japanese markets were closed for four days this week and most markets were shut on Wednesday for the New Year holiday.

Global equities added about US$9.6 trillion last year as central bank quantitative easing helped the US economy gain momentum and Europe recover from recession.

The MSCI Asia Pacific ended last year at a three-week high and traded at 11.8 times forward earnings, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with a multiple of 15.3 on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

In Taipei, the TAIEX gained 0.1 percent to finish the week at 8,546.54 compared with 8,535.04 on Dec. 27. The bourse lost 0.77 percent, or 66 points, on Friday after foreign institutional investors served as net sellers of NT$2.46 billion (US$81.89 million) in local shares to send the weighted index on the Taiwan Stock Exchange down at the close, dealers said.

Elsewhere in the region this week, China’s Shanghai Composite Index slipped 0.9 percent, South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 2.8 percent, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.5 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 1.8 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index was little changed.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 0.6 percent as the city-state’s economy shrank for the first time in five quarters after its manufacturing and services industries weakened, while India’s S&P BSE Sensex Index also stumbled, falling 1.6 percent as a decline in a manufacturing gauge sparked concerns about growth in Asia’s third-largest economy.

A purchasing managers’ index released by HSBC Holdings PLC and Markit Economics for India fell to 50.7 last month from November’s 51.3. The Reserve Bank of India raised its key interest rate twice last year to rein in the region’s fastest consumer price gains.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average rose 0.7 percent on Monday to cap a 57 percent advance for last year, its best annual performance since 1972. That was the biggest gain among 24 developed markets tracked by Bloomberg last year.

Meanwhile, the yen posted its steepest annual drop since 1979. Stocks surged and the yen weakened as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda took steps to end 15 years of deflation.

China’s manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 51 last month from 51.4 in November, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics and the nation’s logistics federation said, trailing the median forecast of 51.2 — a reading above 50 indicates expansion.

A manufacturing purchasing managers’ index gauge from HSBC Holdings PLC and Markit Economics slipped to 50.5 last month from 50.8 in November — in line with the median of 17 estimates compiled by Bloomberg — while a separate gauge of China’s non-manufacturing sector fell to a four-month low.

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