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.
In other markets on Friday:
Manila shed 1.22 percent, or 78.09 points, from Thursday to 6,339.26.
Mumbai edged up 13.66 points from Thursday to close at 21,753.75.
STEPPING UP: The firm has also asked employees to work in split shifts from this week and to halt all but essential overseas business travel from next month Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) has implemented a remote work policy for employees not on production lines in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19, the world’s largest contract chipmaker said yesterday. This is the first time in the Hsinchu-based company’s history that it has launched a large-scale remote work policy, joining global technology companies, such as Apple Inc and Google, that encourage employees to work from home. The chipmaker has also asked employees to work in split shifts from this week, it said. As the number of virus infections continues to climb worldwide, TSMC has urged employees to halt unnecessary
Manufacturers are on a mission to produce desperately needed medical ventilators for the COVID-19 pandemic, even if it means converting assembly lines now making auto parts. Along with a shortage of masks and gloves, the spread of COVID-19 to almost every corner of the globe has highlighted a great need for specialized machines that help keep severely afflicted patients alive. “As the global pandemic evolves, there is unprecedented demand for medical equipment, including ventilators,” GE Healthcare chief executive officer Kieran Murphy said. The group has hired more workers and is making ventilators around the clock. Swedish group Getinge AB is also ramping up output
Facing the rapidly evolving global COVID-19 pandemic, Citibank Taiwan Ltd (台灣花旗) has proactively taken precautionary measures. “The health and safety of our colleagues and their families, as well as our clients and the communities we serve, are of the utmost importance. We continue to take proactive measures to preserve their well-being while we maintain our ability to serve our clients,” Citibank Taiwan chairman Paulus Mok (莫兆鴻) said in a statement yesterday. “We have local and regional contingency plans in place, and we have well-established business continuity plans for the firm. We are monitoring the situation closely, adjusting our operations accordingly,
GoShare, an electric scooter sharing service provider with Gogoro Inc (睿能創意), plans to expand to Tainan next quarter in a strategic alliance with Aeon Motor Co (宏佳騰). The company currently offers its services in Taipei and Taoyuan. “Tainan is very popular among tourists. The city receives an average of 22.94 million tourists every year,” GoShare head Henry Chiang (姜家煒) told a news conference yesterday in Taipei, citing Tourism Bureau statistics. “Besides, the city has a long history of riding scooters,” he said. Each household owns an average of 2.5 scooters, he added. “Expanding presence” is one of four strategies GoShare is adopting for this