Asian stocks fell, with the benchmark index heading for its biggest monthly decline since May 2012, amid heightened unrest in Hong Kong and speculation over the timing of U.S. interest-rate increases.
Hong Kong developers extended Monday’s drop, with New World Development Co. and Cheung Kong (Holdings) Ltd. falling at least 1.4 percent, as the city’s major streets remained barricaded by protesters. Sumitomo Corp., Japan’s fourth-largest trading company, plunged 12 percent after cutting its profit forecast. Noble Group Ltd. sank 6.5 percent in Singapore after the second-biggest holder of the commodities trader put part of its stake up for sale.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.6 percent to 140.32 as of 4:47 p.m. in Hong Kong, after retreating to a four-month low Monday. The measure is heading for a 5 percent decrease this month amid concern Chinese economic growth is slowing and the Federal Reserve may increase U.S. borrowing costs sooner as it ends its asset purchase program, known as quantitative easing, next month.
“There are plenty of excuses for people to take some money off the table,” Ryan Huang, a strategist at IG Ltd. in Singapore, said by phone. “The Fed’s QE is scheduled to end next month in the U.S. and investors are wondering about the timing of interest-rate increases. China’s economy is slowing down and protests in Hong Kong only add to geopolitical concerns.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 1.3 percent to the lowest close since June 25 and the city’s currency tumbled as protesters stayed in the streets to press for open elections and the resignation of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.
Japan’s Topix index lost 0.8 percent as the yen gained and data showed industrial production unexpectedly fell in August from a month earlier. South Korea’s Kospi index slipped 0.3 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index declined 0.6 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index added 0.5 percent.
China’s Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.3 percent as coal producers rallied. A Chinese manufacturing gauge fell from an initial reading a week ago as a property slump weighs on the world’s second-largest economy.
Hong Kong is closed Wednesday and Oct. 2 for holidays, while mainland China is shut Oct. 1-7 for the National Day break, resuming Oct. 8.
“For the time being, there are a lot of reasons to be negative,” Tim Schroeders, a portfolio manager who helps oversee $1 billion in equities at Pengana Capital Ltd. in Melbourne, said by phone. “We may see further downside in Hong Kong, with some squaring their books ahead of the holidays beginning tomorrow amid jitters over ongoing protests in the city.”
Hong Kong Standoff
Protesters continued to block roads in central Hong Kong in the fifth day of pro-democracy demonstrations as leaders warned the standoff would escalate in the coming days if their demands aren’t met. Crowds swelled to the tens of thousands last night as police largely kept their distance, avoiding the clashes of Sept. 28 that seemed to fuel the demonstrations.
Data on Monday showed consumer spending in the U.S. rebounded in August as further job gains encouraged households to loosen their purse strings. Purchases increased 0.5 percent last month after little change in July. Incomes rose 0.3 percent.
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