Asian stocks fell, with the benchmark index dropping to the lowest level in four weeks, following a retreat in U.S. equities on concern about the pace of Federal Reserve interest-rate increases.
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. dropped 3.8 percent after nickel tumbled yesterday. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland stocks traded in Hong Kong, known as the H-share gauge, capped its steepest drop since February. China Vanke Co., the nation’s largest developer, slid 2.7 percent amid reports that the number of homes sold in China last week slumped. Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., which assembles Apple Inc. products, lost 1 percent in Taipei after the world’s most valuable company unveiled new iPhones and other devices.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.8 percent to 146.57 as of 8:07 p.m. in Hong Kong. The equity gauge climbed 13 percent from a February low through yesterday amid signs the U.S. economy is strengthening and as China introduced stimulus. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index posted its biggest decline in a month yesterday as investors weighed the outlook for U.S. monetary policy.
“It’s going to be harder for the market to climb as it’s gone up pretty quickly,” Keith Poore, who helps manage $131 billion as Wellington-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., said by phone. “Investors are shifting their focus toward the end of quantitative easing and the commencement of interest-rate hikes by the Fed. If they tighten prematurely, the global economy could slide back into recession.”
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 1.9 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.4 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex index sank 0.8 percent. India’s S&P BSE Sensex index lost 0.8 percent, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.6 percent. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.1 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index was little changed.
Japan’s Topix index added 0.6 percent to close at a six- year high and erase this year’s loss. The yen traded near its weakest level since September 2008. Markets in South Korea are closed for a holiday.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at 13.7 times estimated earnings at the last close, compared with 16.6 for the S&P 500 and 15.5 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.
Futures on the S&P 500 lost less than 0.1 percent. The U.S. equity benchmark gauge fell 0.7 percent yesterday, its biggest decline since Aug. 5., amid concern that the Fed may raise interest rates sooner than anticipated and as Apple wiped out a rally of as much as 4.8 percent after unveiling new products including larger-screen iPhones.
The Fed is gauging the strength of the economy as it winds down a bond-buying program and considers the timing of raising rates. Policy officials next meet Sept. 16-17.
Assessments of the strength of the economy are mixed, after gross domestic product expanded more than previously forecast in the second quarter, while a report on Sept. 5 showed employers added fewer jobs than anticipated in August. Data this week will likely show a decline in weekly jobless claims and stronger retail sales, according to economists’ forecasts.
European Union governments will meet in Brussels today to consider pulling the trigger on tougher Russian sanctions as the bloc weighs the viability of President Vladimir Putin’s truce in Ukraine. The talks among the 28 member nations follow the EU’s abrupt decision this week to put on hold for at least a “few days” a second package of economic penalties against Russia over its encroachment in Ukraine.
Mining companies declined after nickel and iron ore futures dropped yesterday. Sumitomo Metal slid 3.8 percent to 1,664 yen in Tokyo. Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., Australia’s third-largest iron ore producer, fell 2.7 percent to A$3.93.
Chinese developers dropped after Credit Suisse Group AG said primary property market sales volume fell 35 percent last week from the previous period. China Vanke lost 2.7 percent to HK$15.02, while China Resources Land Ltd. sank 4.8 percent to HK$17.90.
Sands China Ltd. decreased 2.3 percent to HK$46.75 amid a slump for casino operators after Nomura Holdings Inc. predicted Macau gaming revenue will fall this month. Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. fell 2.8 percent to HK$54.45.
China Shenhua Energy Co. sank 3.2 percent to HK$23 to lead coal producers lower as Prime Minister Li Keqiang was quoted by the official Xinhua news agency as saying the government will “declare war” on pollution. China Coal Energy Co. slipped 2.1 percent to HK$4.77.
Apple suppliers declined after the U.S. technology company unveiled a smartwatch and iPhones with bigger screens and payment applications. Hon Hai slipped 1 percent to NT$101 in Taipei. Japan Display Inc., which makes panels for Apple devices, dropped 1.8 percent to 587 yen in Tokyo. Apple shares rallied as much as 4.8 percent yesterday before closing 0.4 percent lower.
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