HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Japanese and Australian shares on Wednesday ended modestly lower for a fifth straight day of losses, amid fears about Chinese growth and deepening European debt troubles.
Hong Kong and mainland Chinese stocks rebounded after a string of recent losses, with the latter in particular bouncing off six-month lows, on bargain buying in construction-related and transportation sectors.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +2.55% slipped 0.1% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +0.46% ended marginally lower. Completing a four-day losing streak, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.54% shed 0.2%.
Overcoming early weakness, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI +2.57% ended 0.1% higher, Taiwan’s Taiex inched up 0.1% and China’s Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/206600939/delayed CN:000001 +3.33% climbed 0.5%.
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The gains in Shanghai came after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Tuesday the government’s top priority now was to stabilize economic growth. Read more on Premier Wen's comments.
After a soft set of inflation and trade data for June, investors are now keenly awaiting China’s second-quarter gross domestic product data.
Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney, said investors are “outright fearful” about China’s upcoming GDP data.
“The global market is looking for things that could go wrong. China’s trade surplus showed a growth in exports, but we focused on the weaker-than-expected imports,” McCarthy said. “For the short-term, it means trading remains range-bound.”
In Shanghai trade, Anhui Conch Cement Co. /zigman2/quotes/204422624/delayed CN:600585 +1.75% rose 2.8%, China Railway Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200210795/delayed CN:601390 +0.88% /zigman2/quotes/206114870/delayed CRWOF -1.69% gained 2%, shipping firm China Cosco Holdings Co. /zigman2/quotes/200656011/delayed CN:601866 +1.20% /zigman2/quotes/209590400/delayed CITAY 0.00% climbed 0.9% and Anhui Jianghuai Automobile Co. /zigman2/quotes/202792755/delayed CN:600418 -0.60% added 0.6%. The stocks are all still down in the week so far.
In Hong Kong, a rebound in insurance shares helped offset losses for several Chinese banks. China Life Insurance Co. /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 +3.60% /zigman2/quotes/206573290/composite LFC +0.74% climbed 1.4% and AIA Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203565558/delayed HK:1299 +3.64% rose 0.9%, while China Construction Bank Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208974133/delayed HK:939 +1.72% /zigman2/quotes/207732534/delayed CICHY -0.55% tumbled 3% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201401473/delayed HK:1398 +2.29% /zigman2/quotes/202401350/delayed IDCBY 0.00% fell 1.9%.
Among other notable movers, China Southern Airlines Co. /zigman2/quotes/208800010/delayed HK:1055 +4.80% /zigman2/quotes/210515916/delayed CN:600029 +2.24% /zigman2/quotes/206691352/composite ZNH +0.09% dropped 2.6% in Shanghai after the carrier warned its earnings for the first half of 2012 could come in 50% below those of a year earlier. However, the airline’s Hong Kong-listed stocks ended 1.2% higher, staging a rebound in line with the broader market. Read more on China Southern profit warnings.
In Tokyo, Europe-exposed names were pressured, as the euro fell to near the ¥97 level /zigman2/quotes/210561215/realtime/sampled EURJPY -0.0754% against the Japanese yen.
Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 +1.94% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE +0.37% dropped 2.2% and Mazda Motor Corp. /zigman2/quotes/204777714/delayed JP:7261 +3.72% /zigman2/quotes/206646681/delayed MZDAF -4.62% fell 2%.
Shares of Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +0.90% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF -0.71% fell 1.7% to extend Tuesday losses after announcing a special charge related to a legal settlement.
In Sydney, shares of Alumina Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210515632/delayed AU:AWC +3.03% sank 4.3% after its joint-venture partner Alcoa Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200686102/composite AA -2.68% took a 4.1% hit in U.S. trade.