By RTT News,
January 07, 2014, 04:19:00 AM EDT
(RTTNews.com) - Asian stocks ended mixed in cautious trading on Tuesday, with concerns about Chinese growth and mixed data out of the U.S. weighing on the markets. The formal approval of Janet Yellen as the next Federal Reserve chief failed to bring cheers as investors awaited a slew of data out of the U.S. and China later in the week for clues on the momentum in global economic growth.
Meanwhile, business activity in emerging market economies increased at a slower pace in December, the latest survey data released by Markit Economics and HSBC Bank showed. The HSBC Emerging Markets Index dropped to 51.6 in the month from 52.1 in November, signaling a weaker rate of expansion.
Japanese shares fell for a second consecutive session, tracking a weak lead from Wall Street overnight and a stronger yen after data showed a slowdown in growth in the U.S. services sector for the second straight month in December. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 0.6 percent to 15,814 in volatile trading. The broader Topix index shed 0.7 percent. Honda Motor lost a little over a percent, Toyota Motor fell half a percent, Nikon retreated 2.3 percent, Canon dropped 0.8 percent and Fanuc declined 0.9 percent.
Fast Retailing lost a percent as it reported weaker-than expected monthly sales at its Uniqlo stores. Sony ended largely unchanged after unveiling its waterproof smartphone, the new Xperia Z1. Sharp Corp also ended flat on a Bloomberg report that it plans to boost capital by divesting assets like idle plants and stock holdings. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries rose 0.2 percent after the company said it received an order from Macao's transport authority to supply an additional 48 train cars for a new public transit system.
China's Shanghai Composite index rose 0.1 percent to 2,047, marking its first gain in 2014. Shares of companies linked to Shanghai's free-trade zone rallied after the government overturned a 13-year ban on gaming consoles by allowing the production and sale of "gaming entertainment" within the free trade zone. Banks ended mostly lower after China Banking Regulatory Commission reportedly said it plans to set up banks entirely funded by private investment this year as part of the ongoing financial sector reforms. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also gained 0.1 percent to finish at 22,713.
Australian shares reversed early gains to end modestly lower. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 percent to 5,317, dragged down by miners as investors digested mixed U.S. data and awaited Chinese trade and inflation figures due later in the week for further clues on the health of the world's second-largest economy. BHP Billiton shed 0.9 percent, Rio Tinto fell 2.6 percent and Fortescue Metals Group dropped 4.7 percent as copper prices hovered near two-week lows. Banks ended mixed, with ANZ, NAB and Westpac ending slightly lower, while Commonwealth edged up 0.2 percent.
Altona Mining rallied nearly 3 percent after the company made an early debt repayment of $10.45 million, reducing the balance of its debt facility by half to $10 million from $20.45 million. GPT Group shares advanced 2.6 percent after its unlisted funds agreed to buy stakes in four office buildings in Victoria and New South Wales states should Dexus Property Group win control of a trust managed by Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
On the economic front, Australia's trade deficit declined more than expected in November, the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed. The country's trade in goods and services showed a deficit of A$118 million in November, less than a revised A$358 million deficit in October and A$300 million shortfall expected. The deficit has now fallen for four consecutive months.
Seoul shares rose modestly on foreign fund buying, benefiting from a stronger yen. The benchmark Kospi average rose 0.3 percent to 1,959. Hyundai Motor posted a modest 0.2 percent gain while shares of its affiliate Kia Motors rallied nearly 3 percent. Shipbuilders saw widespread buying, with Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering climbing more than 4 percent each, while Hyundai Heavy Industries rose 2 percent.
Samsung Electronics slipped 0.2 percent after the company said it expects fourth quarter operating profit of 8.30 trillion won, down 6.1 percent than its operating profit of 8.84 trillion won in the prior year.
New Zealand shares fell modestly, tracking mixed regional cues. The benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 0.1 percent to 4,760. Among the prominent decliners, Chorus, Air New Zealand, Fletcher Building and Kathmandu Holdings fell 1-3 percent. Tech shares saw heavy buying, with Xero climbing 2.7 percent, while Diligent shares soared 8.4 percent. Wynyard Group jumped 12 percent to a record high after the intelligence software developer announced its latest contract win in the Middle East.
Elsewhere, the key benchmark indexes in India, Indonesia and Malaysia were down between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent, while Singapore's Straits Times was trading flat and the Taiwan Weighted average edged up 0.1 percent.
U.S. stocks ended mostly lower on Monday, with mixed data on service sector activity and orders for manufactured goods contributing to the weakness. The Dow and the S&P 500 fell about 0.3 percent each, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.4 percent.
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