By Daniel Inman
Asian stock markets made small moves Tuesday ahead of Wednesday’s Federal Reserve policy meeting, as investors digested a number of corporate earnings reports.
U.S. pending home sales data for September missed expectations, falling 5.6% to their lowest level since December. Coming just before the U.S. Federal Reserve holds its latest policy meeting, the poor data raised expectations that the central bank will keep its bond-buying program unchanged.
Although the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +2.62% hit a new high overnight, Wall Street ended Monday little changed, providing a weak lead for Asia. Regional stocks ended the day with small moves, with many markets ending the day close to the break-even mark.
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Australia was under pressure, with the S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.12% falling 0.5% to 5415.50 after a speech by Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Glenn Stevens cast doubt on the health of the Australian economy.
Stevens also said that the local currency’s current level wasn’t consistent with the underlying economic fundamentals. The Australian dollar /zigman2/quotes/210560947/realtime/sampled AUDUSD +0.3890% fell to 95.09 U.S. cents from 95.77 U.S. cents.
The Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.74% ended down 0.5%, with the index weighed by strength in the yen /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.4022% — at ¥97.52 to the dollar late in Asia, compared with ¥97.67 late Monday in New York.
Tuesday’s swings continued a period of volatility for the Japanese index, which has bounced violently up and down in reaction to relatively small movements in the yen. On Monday, the Nikkei Average jumped 2.2%, rebounding from a sharp fall on Friday.
Chinese stocks were mixed, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +1.66% ending up 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.40% slid 0.2%.
South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.43% closed 0.2% higher.
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The earnings season rolled on, with markets across the region digesting a wide range of earnings reports.
In Tokyo, KDDI /zigman2/quotes/204923990/delayed JP:9433 -0.47% /zigman2/quotes/209186068/delayed KDDIF -1.69% gained 2.4% after the telecommunications company reported a record-high and consensus-beating operating profit for the first half of the fiscal year, due to a stronger-than-expected increase in subscription and a rise in usage revenue.
Japanese suppliers to Apple /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +2.85% fell after the U.S. technology giant reported that it sold fewer than expected iPhones in the quarter ended September. Taiyo Yuden /zigman2/quotes/201254994/delayed JP:6976 -0.15% fell 2.1%, and Murata Manufacturing /zigman2/quotes/209506717/delayed MRAAF +2.25% lost 1.7%.
In Sydney, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ +2.92% /zigman2/quotes/204542251/delayed ANEWF +4.11% rose 1.2% after reporting a forecast-beating fiscal 2013 cash profit, as well as a dividend that was higher than expected.
In South Korea, SK Hynix /zigman2/quotes/206420319/delayed KR:000660 +3.08% HXSCL 0.00% dropped 3.5% as profit-taking emerged after the world’s second-largest maker of memory chips reported a sharp increase in its third-quarter net profit. The stock had a strong run-up in recent weeks, and was still up 5.6% month-to-date.