By Dow Jones Business News, March 01, 2013, 01:09:00 AM EDT
By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
SYDNEY (MarketWatch) -- Stock markets in China and Australia traded lower Friday to start the new month on a downbeat
note after a pair of lackluster Chinese manufacturing surveys, but Japanese shares managed to find some buyers.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.4% while the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1%, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200
index lost 0.4%.
Japan's Nikkei Stock Average traded up 0.2%, however, while South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.
Asian stocks surged Thursday, the last session of February as investors keyed into signs of continued easy global
monetary policy, but U.S. shares ended with small losses later in the day. Read: U.S. stocks stall in stretch toward
Mixed economic data dampened sentiment on Wall Street, as markets looked toward draconian government spending cuts set
to begin Friday that are expected to weigh somewhat on U.S. economic growth. Read: Sequester cuts near as Senate bills
The losses for U.S. equities "suggests that there could be some consolidation ahead, as U.S. automatic spending cuts
looks set to kick in," said Crédit Agricole strategist Gary Yau.
Data out Friday on the Chinese economy didn't do much to lift the market mood, showing that growth in the
manufacturing sector's activity almost ground to a halt in February, according to an official survey. A separate survey
from HSBC also indicated slower growth. Read: China manufacturing grows marginally, surveys show
According to Deutsche Bank economist Jun Ma, the decrease in February's Purchasing Manufacturing Index "can largely be
explained by the seasonality resulting from the Lunar New Year effect."
China more or less shuts down for a week for the Chinese new year holiday -- which this year fell in early February.
Resource-sector firms were weak in mainland Chinese trading, with Jiangxi Copper Co. (JIXAY) down 2.8% and Angang
Steel Co. (ANGGY) lower by 1.1%.
Banks were lower as well, with Bank of China Ltd. (BACHY) down 1.3% and China Merchants Bank Co. (600036.SH) falling
Energy firms lost ground in Hong Kong, with Cnooc Ltd. ( CEO ) down 2.8% and PetroChina Ltd. ( PTR ) moving lower by
1.3%. China Coal Energy Co. (CCOZY) declined 2.2%.
The volatile property sector likewise lost ground in Hong Kong, with Hang Lung Properties Ltd (HLPPY) down 2.7%.
Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. (SUHJY) fell 1.8% after cutting its fiscal-year property sales target to 32 billion Hong
Kong dollars ($4.1 billion), and reporting a 1.9% decline in first-half underlying net profit.
In Japanese trading, the market pulled off early lows as the dollar started to make up some ground against the yen
(USDJPY), trading at Yen92.54, ticking down from Yen92.63 in late North American trading Thursday but well above the
greenback's Yen92.18 level a day earlier.
"We continue to favor a weaker Japanese yen over the medium term. A collapse in Japan's current-account surplus is the
main driver," said foreign exchange strategists at Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Among exporters, Toyota Motor Corp. ( TM ) lost 0.3%, Panasonic Corp. (PC) also dropped 0.3%, and Mitsubishi Motors
Corp. (MMTOY) traded lower by 1%.
But Nissan Motor Co. (NSANY) rose 0.9%, and Sony Corp. ( SNE ) gained 4.6%. The Nikkei business daily reported that
Sony had sold a building in Tokyo for 111.1 billion yen ($1.2 billion).
Sharp Corp. (SHCAF) rose 2.4% after a Kyodo News report Thursday saying the electronics firm would soon accept
executives from two major banks to secure their financial support. Read: Sharp to accept executives from banks
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501.TO) jumped 2.9% after a Nikkei News report that the firm was ordering more than Yen10
billion worth of supplies and equipment to use for decommissioning reactors at its Fukishima plant destroyed in the 2011
Kobe Steel Ltd. (KBSTY) which was reportedly supplying the material, traded flat.
Gold futures fell for a second straight session in New York on Thursday, ending February with a fifth straight monthly
loss, helping send gold producers lower in Australia. Read: Gold drops, notches 5th straight monthly loss
Newcrest Mining Ltd. (NCMGF) moved down 1.8% in Sydney trade, while Perseus Mining Ltd. (PMNXF) tumbled 5.6%.
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