By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
SYDNEY (MarketWatch) — Asian stock markets fell on Thursday as overnight losses on Wall Street inspired some profit-taking, with weaker commodity prices placing extra pressure on resource-related firms.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.09% lost 1%, South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +1.53% dropped 2.7%, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.59% finished 1.6% lower.
“I think we are seeing some profit taking,” said DBS Vickers director Peter Lai, citing a rise for many Asia indexes over the past several weeks.
Lai said that there is still a lot of uncertainty in the market and many variables for investors to grapple with, including euro-zone debt, economic data from the U.S. and the likely strength of the Chinese economy.
China shakes commodities markets
While China's GDP grew 9.1% in the third quarter, the nation's demand for industrial metals and commodities has been slowing this year.
“I expect volatility until we get a clearer view of the euro-zone debt issues and the so-called revival of the U.S. economy,“ he said.
Concern over the U.S. economy following the release of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book and ongoing uncertainty over Europe’s debt troubles helped to send U.S. stocks lower Wednesday. Read more on U.S. stocks.
Asia markets picked up on the downbeat sentiment Thursday, as many firms with large global exposure saw their shares fall. Sharp Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203224600/delayed JP:6753 +1.40% /zigman2/quotes/207472799/delayed SHCAF +2.80% dropped 2.1% in Tokyo, while Li & Fung Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201795755/delayed HK:494 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/201638706/delayed LFUGY -26.00% surrendered 2.8% in Hong Kong, and Brambles Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200985667/delayed AU:BXB +0.51% /zigman2/quotes/206869297/delayed BMBLF +6.25% finished down 2.9% in Sydney.
Resource shares were among the worst performers for the region, as metals and crude-oil futures declined.
Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202960704/delayed HK:2600 +1.81% /zigman2/quotes/208051344/composite ACH +5.93% /zigman2/quotes/210453246/delayed CN:601600 0.00% fell 4.9%, and Zhaojin Mining Industry Co. /zigman2/quotes/203361399/delayed HK:1818 -1.46% /zigman2/quotes/200275285/delayed ZHAOF -2.52% slid 7.8% in Hong Kong.
In Sydney, Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -0.84% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO +0.59% — which also announced a $576 million Canadian acquisition — lost 3.4%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP -0.96% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP +2.05% traded down 2.5%. See report on Rio Tinto’s deal to buy Hathor.
Gold producer Newcrest Mining Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM -2.30% /zigman2/quotes/206026738/delayed NCMGF +0.12% fell 6.4% after the company said that it produced 16% less gold during its fiscal first quarter, while cash costs rose 10%.
Energy companies were similarly weak as benchmark Nymex crude-oil futures fell. Cnooc Ltd. shares /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 -3.02% /zigman2/quotes/204964401/composite CEO +0.79% were down 3% in Hong Kong, Japan Petroleum Exploration Co. /zigman2/quotes/201212147/delayed JP:1662 +2.25% /zigman2/quotes/202925532/delayed JPTXF -1.12% ended down 3.1% in Tokyo, and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203437212/delayed AU:WPL +2.28% /zigman2/quotes/206770672/delayed WOPEF +2.62% lost 4.2% in Sydney after confirming it plans to close a key gas rig earlier than planned. See report on Woodside rig closure.
Ongoing flooding in Thailand has resulted in production suspensions for some firms, keeping pressure on shares of Japanese auto maker Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -1.32% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +1.98% , which ended down 3%, and camera maker Nikon Corp. /zigman2/quotes/203281219/delayed JP:7731 -1.94% /zigman2/quotes/209396469/delayed NINOY -3.20% , down 3.5%. Read more on Thai floods and their impact.
Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% climbed 2.4%, with Citigroup analysts saying that they rate the chip maker as a buy in a neutral-rated technology sector, and that following significant share-price corrections, “the risk-reward appears to be to the upside.”
The Korean firm may also have gotten a boost from a report out Thursday that Japan’s Panasonic Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201785256/delayed JP:6752 -0.12% will scale down its television business in reaction to a strong currency and competition from overseas. Panasonic shares ended with a 1.1% gain. Read more possible scaling down of Panasonic’s television operations.