By Michael Kitchen, MarketWatch
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Asian stock markets ended lower Wednesday after overnight losses in the U.S. on monetary-policy concerns, with Japan shares falling the most in nearly two months as exporters took a heavy hit from the yen’s advance.
The blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% plunged 4% in Tokyo, its worst one-day percentage loss since June 13, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.33% fell 1.9%, and South Korea’s Kopsi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.49% gave up 1.5%.
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Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.01% also retreated 1.5%, while the Shanghai Composite Index /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.28% slid 0.7% after a swinging in and out of gains.
The moves came amid seasonally thin trading, with Kim Eng Securities strategist Andrew Sullivan predicting “light volumes to remain.” He noted some market holidays this week in Southeast Asia for the end of Ramadan likely to make volumes “lighter still.”
“Summer doldrums seem to be upon us,” he said.
The weak tone in Asia followed a second day of losses for U.S. benchmarks, with the S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.38% sliding back below the 1,700 level after ending the day down 0.6%.
Concerns about the Federal Reserve’s stimulus outlook helped drive the drop on Wall Street, after Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said he expects the central bank to begin tapering its asset-purchase program by the end of the year.
Japanese equities took an additional hit from the yen, as the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.1053% fell as low as ¥96.74, according to FactSet, after having traded above the ¥98 level just over 24 hours earlier.
The higher yen hit exporters, which have benefitted from a weaker currency.
Among them, Sony Corp. /zigman2/quotes/201361720/delayed JP:6758 -0.57% /zigman2/quotes/208567357/composite SNE -0.49% lost 4.3%, Tokyo Electron Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202883609/delayed JP:8035 -1.27% /zigman2/quotes/200298228/delayed TOELF +0.48% retreated 6.7%, and Olympus Corp. /zigman2/quotes/200860615/delayed JP:7733 -1.61% /zigman2/quotes/203009041/delayed OCPNF +18.09% slid 4.7%.
Shares of Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200757604/delayed JP:2587 -1.29% , which debuted in Tokyo last month, gave up 2.9% of their value despite almost doubling its fiscal first-half profit.
Audio-tech firm Pioneer Corp. tumbled 8.7% after reporting a wider quarterly loss and slashing its fiscal-year profit outlook by more than 90%.
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But on the upside, energy major Showa Shell Sekiyu K.K. surged 3.7% after hiking its own fiscal-year profit outlook by 85%.
In Sydney, the key mining and financial sectors were both heading lower, with Newcrest Mining Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203840223/delayed AU:NCM +1.45% /zigman2/quotes/206026738/delayed NCMGF +0.32% sinking 4.2% after benchmark Comex gold futures lost their grip on the $1,300-an-ounce level in Tuesday trade.
Fortescue Metals Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/202351558/delayed AU:FMG -1.23% /zigman2/quotes/204116626/delayed FSUMF -2.28% and uranium extractor Paladin Energy Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203269866/delayed AU:PDN -5.38% /zigman2/quotes/202157125/delayed PALAF -1.52% also helped lead mining-share losses, dropping 4.6% and 7%, respectively.
Banks extended their weakness after the Reserve Bank of Australia’s Tuesday interest-rate cut, with National Australia Bank Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +0.04% /zigman2/quotes/205253475/delayed NAUBF +0.50% off 1.7% and Macquarie Group Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/206727308/delayed AU:MQG -0.28% /zigman2/quotes/204353811/delayed MCQEF +2.94% lower by 3%.
Chip shares traded lower in Seoul, where Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -1.33% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% fell 2.6%, and SK Hynix Inc. /zigman2/quotes/206420319/delayed KR:000660 -0.96% /zigman2/quotes/203669196/delayed HXSCL 0.00% lost 3.6%, following a 0.7% drop for the Nasdaq /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.67% .
Among Hong Kong stocks, the energy shares were a weak spot after crude-oil futures lost 1.2% during regular trade in New York.
Cnooc Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203421416/delayed HK:883 -0.65% /zigman2/quotes/204964401/composite CEO +0.43% slid 1%, and PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -0.88% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -1.26% surrendered 2.7%, while China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. — better known as Sinopec /zigman2/quotes/202085942/delayed HK:386 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/202783176/composite SNP -1.03% — saw a 2.4% decline.
Casino shares were mixed, with Wynn Macau Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200973447/delayed HK:1128 -1.15% /zigman2/quotes/210239025/delayed WYNMF -2.47% rising 0.7%, but MGM China Holdings Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/203735819/delayed HK:2282 -2.71% /zigman2/quotes/207834661/delayed MCHVF +3.38% dropping 4.6% after posting a quarterly loss.