By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Most Asian markets declined Thursday as sentiment took hits from falling commodity prices and weak U.S. corporate results, with some technology stocks dropping after a sharp fall in Apple Inc. shares.
Hong Kong shares ended lower for a fifth straight session, although mainland Chinese stocks found a little support from economic data showing an improvement in foreign direct investment inflows and home prices.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.56% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.12% each ended 1.2% lower, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.53% tumbled 1.6%, Taiwan’s Taiex dropped 0.2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +0.19% fell 0.3%.
“Once again, bottom-up views continue to miss analysts’ lofty expectations,” said IG Markets strategist Evan Lucas, referring to recent downbeat results, including from Dow industrial components Bank of America Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200894270/composite BAC -0.73% on Wednesday and Intel Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203649727/composite INTC +0.71% a day earlier.
China markets volatile
The Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +1.43% ended 0.2% higher after a choppy session in which the benchmark changed direction a few times amid a generally weak tone in regional markets.
Data released earlier in the day showed foreign direct investment flows into China rose to $12.4 billion in March, rising 5.7% from the year-ago period.
Property shares advanced in the wake of figures showing that new-home prices climbed in 68 of 70 top Chinese cities surveyed in March from levels seen in February, despite recent measures to further tighten policies on the property sector.
“The rolling out of property loan/price restrictions are clearly designed to take some of the froth out of the top end of the market, not intended to destroy the sector altogether,” said Annette Beacher, head of Asia-Pacific research at TD Securities.
Shares of China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202573805/composite CAOVY +10.48% /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 +3.83% climbed 1.6%, and China Resources Land Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202417326/delayed HK:1109 -1.28% /zigman2/quotes/201656413/composite CRBJF -2.74% gained 2.3% in Hong Kong, while China Vanke Co. rose 0.4% in Shenzhen.
The advance, however, contrasted with losses elsewhere in the region after a poor set of U.S. corporate earnings dragged on Wall Street overnight.
Several exporters and companies with a global exposure were pulled lower, with industrial-automation major Fanuc Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209410825/composite FANUY -0.46% /zigman2/quotes/202054799/delayed JP:6954 +0.90% losing 2.3%, and camera maker Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 +2.83% /zigman2/quotes/209396469/composite NINOY -3.93% shedding 2.1% in Tokyo.
Shares of Prada S.p.A. /zigman2/quotes/200575701/delayed HK:1913 +5.25% /zigman2/quotes/204689658/composite PRDSY -0.41% dropped 1.5% in Hong Kong, and Hyundai Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/204364212/composite HYMTF +11.06% /zigman2/quotes/206684590/delayed KR:005380 -0.76% shrank 2.1% in Seoul.
Resource stocks came under renewed selling pressure as crude-oil and metals lost further ground.
Heavyweight miner BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP +1.18% /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.05% tumbled 4.4% in Sydney, as gold miner Zijin Mining Group Co. /zigman2/quotes/204517000/delayed HK:2899 +2.38% /zigman2/quotes/203833875/delayed CN:601899 +1.56% /zigman2/quotes/209836076/composite ZIJMF +2.59% lost 1.8% in Hong Kong and 0.6% in Shanghai. Steel maker Posco /zigman2/quotes/209201002/composite PKX +0.11% /zigman2/quotes/201759282/delayed KR:005490 -0.92% gave up 1.4% in Seoul.
Some shares of technology firms in Apple’s /zigman2/quotes/202934861/composite AAPL +0.54% supply-chain suffered broad losses after stock in the iPhone maker dropped below $400 overnight, following a tepid revenue outlook from the company’s chips supplier Cirrus Logic Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208789077/composite CRUS +2.62% .
LG Display Co. /zigman2/quotes/204466928/composite LPL +1.79% /zigman2/quotes/204226570/delayed KR:034220 -0.24% lost 4.8% in Seoul, and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co. /zigman2/quotes/207256514/delayed TW:2317 0.00% retreated 1.3% in Taipei, while mobile service provider Softbank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/207303954/delayed JP:9984 -1.04% /zigman2/quotes/202815238/composite SFTBF +2.48% lost 1.6% in Tokyo.