By Daniel Inman
Asian markets were mostly lower Thursday as disappointing earnings combined with steady Federal Reserve policy to bring the region down.
The Fed met expectations by leaving its stimulus program unchanged at its policy meeting, though it did surprise with its upbeat assessment of the economy. This raised fears that a change in policy could come sooner than expected, weighing on regional sentiment.
Some investors were looking for the central bank to downgrade its economic outlook after the government shutdown and budget impasse earlier this month.
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In fact, the government shutdown was a major focus for global markets in the first half of October. Asian stocks proved resilient through the drama, and most markets in the region look set to post respectable gains for the month.
The Philippines’ PSE Composite /zigman2/quotes/210597949/delayed PH:PSEI +0.08% is up 6.4% for the month, while Australia recorded a 4% gain. China has been a laggard in October, as a rise in local interbank lending rates resulted in the Shanghai Composite giving back some of its gains from earlier in the month and was 1.5% lower for the month.
On Thursday, the Nikkei Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -1.06% was one of the region’s worst performers, with the index down 1.2%, as a series of disappointing earnings results helped bring down the market.
Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -2.98% fell 1.3% after it announced net profit for the quarter ended September, which came in below expectations. Battery-maker GS Yuasa Corp. /zigman2/quotes/209233174/delayed JP:6674 -2.87% sank 6.1% after posting a first-half operating profit that was below guidance.
In Tokyo, ANA Holdings /zigman2/quotes/202790240/delayed JP:9202 -1.65% /zigman2/quotes/203486823/delayed ALNPF 0.00% declined 4.7% after the airline lowered its 2013 fiscal-year net profit forecast by 65% on higher fuel costs and slow service expansion because of delays in Boeing /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -3.78% 787 Dreamliner deliveries.
Investors were also reacting negatively to earnings from Chinese firms in the financial sector. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.84% fell 0.4%, and the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -1.95% lost 0.9% on the mainland.
Lenders in China were in focus after several of the country’s largest banks reported their third-quarter earnings, with profit growth continuing to decline as the sector faced a maturing economy and interest-rate pressure.
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Bank stocks fell in Hong Kong after a sharp increase during the previous session. Bank of Communications /zigman2/quotes/203442771/delayed HK:3328 -1.88% /zigman2/quotes/208048873/delayed BKFCF -1.69% dropped 1.1%, while Agricultural Bank of China /zigman2/quotes/200705246/delayed HK:1288 -2.63% /zigman2/quotes/209398792/delayed ACGBF +9.33% managed a 1.1% gain.
China Minsheng Banking Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208095167/delayed HK:1988 -0.95% /zigman2/quotes/200749234/delayed CMAKY -1.15% , a stock that came under pressure during China’s liquidity crisis in the summer, fell 2.4% in Hong Kong. The country’s eighth-largest lender reported its interest income rose by just 3%.
Chinese brokerages posted strong profit growth for the nine months that ended in September, as the industry benefited from increased trading volumes and higher investment returns. The market didn’t welcome the news: Citic Securities /zigman2/quotes/210326178/delayed CN:600030 -3.96% was down 2.1% in Shanghai, and Haitong Securities /zigman2/quotes/203443667/delayed CN:600837 -4.29% was 1.3% lower.
National Australia Bank /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB -1.11% /zigman2/quotes/205253475/delayed NAUBF -1.63% fell 2.5% in Sydney after the lender posted full-year earnings in line with market forecasts, though costs were ahead of expectations.