Asian stocks fall amid policy concerns

Staff writer, with agencies

Sun, Feb 24, 2013 - Page 15

Asian stocks outside Japan fell this week, with a gauge of Hong Kong-listed Chinese companies erasing its gain for the year, amid concern the world’s two largest economies may tighten monetary policy.

The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan declined 0.6 percent to 478.96 this week as some markets reopened from the Lunar New Year holidays, paring the previous week’s 1.2 percent gain and trimming its advance for the month to 0.2 percent.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which includes Japanese shares, jumped 0.5 percent to 133.57.

The index gained about 3.2 percent this year through Friday amid signs China’s economy was recovering and as Japanese stocks surged on speculation that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would pursue more aggressive stimulus policies.

Stocks on Asia’s benchmark index were valued at about 14.8 times estimated earnings on average, compared with about 13.6 times for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 12.2 times for the STOXX Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The TAIEX retreated 0.7 percent for the week until Friday, closing the day down 9.74 points, or 0.12 percent, at 7,947.72.

However, markets were open in Taiwan yesterday to compensate for an extra holiday during the Lunar New Year holiday from Feb. 9 to 17.

The TAIEX ended higher yesterday, as investors took cues from the gains posted by Wall Street overnight on reduced worries over the global economy after Germany, the largest economy in Europe, reported an improvement in business confidence, dealers said.

The weighted index closed up 39.17 points, or 0.49 percent, at 7,986.89, after moving between 7,965.89 and 7,997.94, on turnover of NT$53.54 billion (US$1.81 billion).

China’s Shanghai Composite Index slumped 4.9 percent, the steepest weekly retreat in five months, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng China Enterprises Index dropped 4.5 percent, wiping out its gain for the year.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 2.8 percent, with measures of property developers and banks having the biggest declines.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average gained 1.9 percent this week and the broader TOPIX jumped 2.2 percent.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 slipped 0.3 percent this week.

South Korea’s KOSPI climbed 1.9 percent after central bank Governor Kim Choong-soo said the improved global outlook raises the odds that South Korea will beat growth targets.

In other markets on Friday:

‧ Wellington climbed 1.06 percent, or 44.18 points, from Thursday to 4,214.60.

‧ Manila edged down 2.35 points from Thursday to 6,665.

‧ Mumbai slid down 0.04 percent, or 8.35 points, from Thursday to 19,317.01.