HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asia stocks traded in a downbeat fashion Tuesday as dividend worries weighed on Japanese utility firms while concerns over lackluster third-quarter earnings dragged on shares in Shanghai.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.72% put in a flat performance, while the Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +6.11% lost 0.9% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.80% benchmark declined 0.8%.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.42% managed to gain 0.1%, and Singapore’s Straits Times was up 0.2%. Markets were closed for a holiday in Hong Kong, which made new headlines on the foreign-exchange front.
The Asia Dow /zigman2/quotes/211618636/realtime XX:ADOW +2.31% was marginally lower, easing 0.1% late.
The Hong Kong Monetary Authority intervened in the currency markets for a second time in less than a week on Tuesday, stepping in to sell the Hong Kong dollar in an attempt to halt appreciation of the currency after it traded near the lower channel of its trading band against the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210562005/realtime/sampled USDHKD -0.0077% .
The authority sold $3.914 billion Hong Kong dollars ($505 million), on the heels of having sold last Friday HK$4.67 billion during New York trading, its first intervention since 2009.
Most Asian markets have gained so far this month, gains that have been made against emerging Asian economies that “are not really booming but [are] still quite robust,” said Lucinda Chan. division director at Macquarie Private Wealth.
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In addition, U.S. earnings results out in recent days “have been quite reasonable,” she said, while the U.S. economy has shown some signs of improvement.
The third and final debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney took place during Asian morning trade. U.S. stock futures edged lower after the debate wrapped up, then deepened further.
Both contenders commented on China, with Obama saying he will insist that Beijing play by the same rules as everyone else. Romney echoed those comments and reiterated his pledge to immediately label China a currency manipulator should he be elected.
“Coming into tonight’s debate, President Obama retained a small structural advantage, and I suspect that he will retain that advantage after this debate,” said Nomura economist Lewis Alexander in a note.
Dividend concerns weighed on the Japanese utility sector, as Kansai Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/200592152/delayed JP:9503 -0.61% /zigman2/quotes/200834682/composite KAEPY -1.02% fell 13% after a Nikkei report that the electricity supplier won’t pay a dividend at the end of the fiscal year. This would be its first dividend omission in 61 years.
Kansai Electric’s rivals also traded weak, with shares of Chubu Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/208115192/delayed JP:9502 -0.60% /zigman2/quotes/202741009/composite CHUEF -3.56% shedding 9.9% and Tokyo Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/202771076/delayed JP:9501 -3.07% /zigman2/quotes/205839055/composite TKECY +1.17% falling 1.5%.
Energy-sector firms likewise declined in Tokyo, with JX Holdings Inc. /zigman2/quotes/208590403/delayed JP:5020 +0.26% /zigman2/quotes/204275471/composite JXHGF 0.00% down 1.6% and Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 +0.55% /zigman2/quotes/202925532/composite JPTXF -23.99% down 1%. The pullback came after a 1.5% drop for crude-oil futures in New York on Monday. Read: Oil ends lower; pipeline, Mideast, dollar in focus