HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian markets ended lower Wednesday, as investors assessed mining giant BHP Billiton’s first decline in annual profit in three years, while Japanese trade figures also weighed on sentiment.
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Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -3.34% traded down 0.3%.
The Asia Dow was down 0.6% late.
In the Chinese markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.27% fell 1.1%, while the Shanghai Composite index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 -1.25% slipped 0.5%.
Analysts in Hong Kong cautioned against reading too much into Wednesday’s action, saying seasonally low trading volumes were a factor in the weakness.
China PMI awaited
ReOrient Financial Markets’ director of research, Steve Wang, said markets were also looking ahead to China’s preliminary PMI for August, due out Thursday. He said there’s little hope the data is will show a significant pickup from levels in July, owing to downbeat activity in Europe.
“We shouldn’t expect to see a significant improvement [in China’s PMI] until the Christmas shopping season,” Wang said, referring to upcoming autumn surveys that track manufacturing activity in the runup to the U.S. holiday season.
Shares in the U.S. ended with losses Tuesday, even after rising to touching distance of multi-year highs during the session. Read more on U.S. markets.
Credit Agricole strategist Kintai Cheung attributed the late decline in the U.S. market to profit-taking after the recent strong run and said that caution was likely to prevail on Wednesday “given plenty of event risks,”
He cited the Greek prime minister’s meetings with European leaders due this week and minutes from the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee’s last meeting due out later Wednesday as examples of such risks.
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Stan Shamu, strategist at IG Markets, said Wednesday’s losses in Asia were also due to investors locking in gains after a recent strong run.
Quiet data calendar
Taking the spotlight in a quiet data calendar this week, Japan announced ahead of the market open that it swung to a trade deficit in July, as exports plunged.