MUMBAI (MarketWatch) — Most Asia markets fell Friday amid renewed concerns about global growth, with losses for banks and property firms pushing Hong Kong into the red, while a stronger yen weighed on Japanese exporters.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.51% , Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.32% and the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +0.46% each fell 1.1%.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.51% edged down a more modest 0.1%, while South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.27% shrugged off early weakness to finish fractionally higher.
For the week, Hong Kong was trading down 3%, Japan was 1.2% lower, while South Korea was 0.4% weaker.
Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said concerns about weak data were to blame for much of the losses.
“The market has turned its focus back to fundamentals. Taken together, yesterday’s China data and the euro-zone manufacturing index [suggest] the global economy is slowing down,” Yip said, referring to weak manufacturing surveys Thursday from Europe and China.
“Markets had good moves in January and February, but having shot up to relatively high levels, and given the economy is slowing down, the market is under correction pressure,” Yip said.
The manufacturing data helped push U.S. stocks lower overnight. Read more on the U.S. session.
“Global markets switched to a risk-off stance this week, led by disappointing global manufacturing numbers. The euro area [data] suggests the economy is still in the woods, as France and Germany look vulnerable to slowdowns,” strategists at Barclays Capital said.
“But we do not think this signals the end of the risk-asset rally [and] do not expect a sustained correction,” the strategists said.
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Losses for banks dragged Hong Kong lower.
Shares in Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200705246/delayed HK:1288 -0.41% /zigman2/quotes/207749118/composite ACGBY -0.26% slumped 3.1% after its 29% profit growth for the previous year failed to meet analysts’ expectations. Read more on Agricultural Bank of China's results.
“If you look at the in detail, the result isn’t so good for the fourth quarter, with the impact of the debt problem in Europe and [slowing] in China,” First Shanghai Securities’ Yip said.
The results helped weigh on other major mainland Chinese banks, as Hong Kong-listed shares of Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 -0.75% /zigman2/quotes/202525815/delayed CN:601398 -0.20% fell 2%, and Bank of Communications Co. /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 -0.54% /zigman2/quotes/208048873/composite BKFCF -7.41% /zigman2/quotes/207155262/delayed CN:601328 0.00% gave up 1.9%.
Hong Kong-listed property firms also lost ground, with Agile Property Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210448079/delayed HK:3383 -6.67% /zigman2/quotes/200754284/composite AGPYY +0.39% falling 0.2%, and Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/209086152/delayed HK:16 -0.51% /zigman2/quotes/205427525/composite SUHJY -0.63% extending recent weakness with a 2.4% drop.
Apple Inc. /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +3.75% supplier Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205017351/delayed HK:2038 -2.83% /zigman2/quotes/207122890/composite FXCNF -8.52% reversed early gains made in reaction to the firm’s swing to a 2011 profit to finish 3.5% lower. Read more on Foxconn's results.
But export and logistics major Li & Fung Ltd. outperformed, with a jump of 4.2%, after posting a 24% profit increase for last year and issuing an upbeat outlook. Read more on Li & Fung earnings.
In Japan, exporters lost ground amid a stronger yen and the poor European data. The greenback weakened sharply against the Japanese yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0208% /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.0208% overnight, to change hands at ¥82.66 in Asian trade.
Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -0.67% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE -0.67% slumped 3.1%, Panasonic Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 +0.39% dropped 2.4%, and Toshiba Corp. /zigman2/quotes/205628942/delayed JP:6502 -1.10% /zigman2/quotes/204149068/composite TOSYY -0.83% lost 2.7%.
Likewise, Nissan Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -0.38% /zigman2/quotes/207656007/composite NSANY -0.22% fell 2.6% and Toyota Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203803129/delayed JP:7203 +1.49% /zigman2/quotes/200537742/composite TM +0.85% moved 2% lower.
But gains for the key shipbuilding sector helped push the index higher. Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc. climbed 1.8%, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. added 0.9%
In Sydney, resource firms led the declines. Index heavyweight BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.87% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -0.49% dropped 1.2%, while rival Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO +0.83% gave up 1.5%, and iron-ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG -0.25% /zigman2/quotes/207124211/composite FSUGY -0.40% surrendered 1.3%.
On the upside for Australian equities, Premier Investments Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/207247623/delayed AU:PMV -0.68% — owner of the Just Jeans and Dotti retail chains — jumped 4.9% after posting a 38.5 million Australian dollar ($40.1 million) first-half net profit.