Sun, Mar 23, 2014 - Page 15 News List

China, US outlook spooks Asian stocks

UNCERTAINTY:The TAIEX slid 1.3 percent this week as protesters against the China trade pact occupied the legislature and demanded a dialogue with the president

Bloomberg and staff writer, with CNA

Asia’s benchmark stock index fell the past five days to its biggest two-week loss since June, as Chinese shares traded in Hong Kong entered a bear market and the US Federal Reserve gave a timetable for raising interest rates.

Uni-President China Holdings Ltd (統一企業中國控股) slumped 16 percent in Hong Kong, leading the weekly drop on Asia’s regional gauge, after the instant-noodle maker’s profit last year missed analyst projections. Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia’s No. 1 gold producer, plunged 13 percent after bullion dropped this week for the first time since January.

In Taipei, the TAIEX closed 1.3 percent lower at 8,577.17 this week amid concern over protests against a service trade agreement with China.

Stocks opened higher on Friday, but selling emerged quickly, pushing the index down into negative territory as investors rushed to lock in gains amid fears of further losses as protesters continued to occupy the Legislative Yuan to oppose the trade pact.

“Many investors were afraid that if protests against the trade agreement with China are prolonged, the local bourse’s downturn could be extended. For the moment, they are just trying to keep as much cash as possible,” President Securities Corp (統一證券) analyst Vickie Hsieh (謝雯霞) said.

On Tuesday night, protesters stormed the legislature and began occupying the legislative chamber, demanding that lawmakers review the trade agreement with China item by item before voting on it, and calling for direct dialogue with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

The occupation was continuing at press time.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 1.2 percent this week to 132.77, bringing its two-week drop to 4.6 percent. Information technology shares and utilities led declines. Data this week showed Japan’s trade deficit exceeded estimates last month and growth in China’s new-home prices slowed last month.

The regional measure’s 6.1 percent decline this year pushed valuations on the gauge to 12.5 times estimated earnings. That compares with a multiple of about 15.9 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 14.4 for the STOXX Europe 600 Index.

“China’s latest figures have been disappointing, people are worried about the interest-rate hike in the US, and they are also revising their outlook on Abenomics in Japan,” said Benjamin Tam, a Hong Kong-based portfolio manager at IG Investment Ltd. “Markets will remain weak in the near term.”

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland stocks traded in Hong Kong entered a so-called bear market on Thursday, after slipping 20 percent from its Dec. 2 high, amid deepening concern the world’s No. 2 economy is slowing.

The measure rebounded on Friday to post a 1.4 percent gain for the week, while Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng Index slid 0.5 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 2.2 percent.

Japan’s TOPIX slid 1.6 percent for the week, which was shortened by a holiday on Friday. The Nikkei 225 Stock Average retreated 0.7 percent, with Tokyo Electric Power Co and Denso Corp leading declines, falling 8.5 percent and 7.9 percent respectively.

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 2.8 percent, while New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.9 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index advanced 0.2 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.3 percent.

US Fed Chair Janet Yellen said the US central bank’s stimulus program may end this fall, with benchmark interest rates rising six months later. The Fed said on Wednesday its key rate, currently near zero, would be 1 percent by the end of next year and 2.25 percent a year later.

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