By V. Phani Kumar, MarketWatch
HONG KONG (MarketWatch) — Asian stocks fell Wednesday as concerns about growth in China’s services sector added to the selling pressure amid caution ahead of U.S. jobs data later in the week, dragging on Hong Kong and Australian equities in particular.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.33% tumbled 1.9%, returning most of the gains made in the previous session, when it jumped 2.6% after the country’s central bank left its policy interest rate unchanged.
/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA 29,219.98, -128.05, -0.44%
The performance came ahead of a U.S. holiday Thursday, leading into the key nonfarm payrolls data for June due on Friday.
“Financial markets remain edgy ahead of the U.S. jobs data due for release later in the week, with the result of nonfarm payrolls likely to shape the Federal Open Market Committee course towards the quantitative easing tapering,” said Tim Waterer, a senior trader at CMC Markets. “A sense of nervousness among investors is likely to keep levels of volatility high in the interim.”
Stocks on Wall Street ended lower Tuesday amid caution over U.S. employment trends, with economists polled by MarketWatch anticipating an increase of 155,000 jobs in June, lower than the addition of 175,000 payrolls in May.
An official measure of the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) in China’s services sector eased to 53.9 in June, down from 54.3 in May. In a separate survey by HSBC, the services PMI ticked up to 51.3 from 51.2 in May. HSBC’s chief China economist Hongbin Qu, however, said growth in the sector was expected to slow in coming months as the effect of value-added-tax reforms filter through.
Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK -0.39% finished 0.3% lower for its first decline in five trading days. Taiwan’s Taiex gave up 1.3%, and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 -1.49% dropped 1.6%.
Shares of footwear major Belle International Holdings Ltd. skidded 4.2%, China Coal Energy Co. /zigman2/quotes/201486584/delayed HK:1898 0.00% /zigman2/quotes/205321671/delayed CCOZY -1.24% slumped 6.6% and China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/205731176/delayed HK:688 -1.98% /zigman2/quotes/202573805/delayed CAOVY -2.42% dropped 4% in Hong Kong, accelerating their losses after the Chinese services PMI data.
In Shanghai, property firm Gemdale Corp. /zigman2/quotes/208026094/delayed CN:600383 -2.07% retreated 3.1%, and China Southern Airlines Co. /zigman2/quotes/210515916/delayed CN:600029 -1.56% /zigman2/quotes/206691352/composite ZNH -2.87% dropped 2.9%.
In Tokyo trading, utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. /zigman2/quotes/202771076/delayed JP:9501 -0.23% /zigman2/quotes/205839055/delayed TKECY +1.24% plunged 10.3% a day after it soared 19%, with the Nikkei newspaper reporting its plans to restart a nuclear power plant looked “premature” and hinted of “haste.”
Shares of Suntory Beverage & Food Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200757604/delayed JP:2587 -1.29% rose modestly as they began trading in Tokyo after raising nearly $4 billion from an initial public offering, Japan’s largest this year. The stock ended at ¥3,145 ($31.30), up from its IPO price of ¥3,100.
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Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. /zigman2/quotes/207520099/delayed JP:8306 +0.62% gained 0.8% in choppy trading action, on plans to buy a majority stake in Thai lender Bank of Ayudhya PCL TH:BAY 0.00% for about $5.6 billion.
Also posting gains, Nissan Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208298710/delayed JP:7201 -0.06% /zigman2/quotes/207656007/delayed NSANY -1.47% climbed 0.6%, and Honda Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/200490352/delayed JP:7267 -0.07% /zigman2/quotes/207173990/composite HMC +0.92% rose 0.4%, after reporting an increase in their U.S. sales for June.
The gains were aided as the U.S. dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY -0.2328% rose above the ¥100 level for the first time since early June. The greenback had moved in the mid-¥99 range during the previous Tokyo stock session.
Shares of internationally-exposed South Korean firms also suffered losses, with Samsung Electronics Co. /zigman2/quotes/209800866/delayed KR:005930 -1.33% /zigman2/quotes/202367843/delayed SSNLF 0.00% dropping 2.6% and LG Electronics Inc. /zigman2/quotes/209966407/delayed KR:066570 -1.64% sliding 3.8%.
Mining issues and banks pulled back in Sydney after Tuesday’s advances. Rio Tinto Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/200083756/delayed AU:RIO -0.46% /zigman2/quotes/202627887/composite RIO -0.28% skidded 3%, and BHP Billiton Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP -0.78% /zigman2/quotes/208108397/composite BHP -1.54% slumped 3.2%, while National Australia Bank Ltd. /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +0.04% /zigman2/quotes/208329321/delayed NABZY -0.55% gave up 1.9%.
Data released earlier on Wednesday showed retail sales grew a slower-than-expected 0.1% in May. Trade data surprised positively, meanwhile, with the country recording a trade surplus of 670 million Australian dollars ($615 million) during the month, as exports grew 4% from a year earlier, while imports rose 2%.
Shares of a few regional energy producers rose as Nymex August crude-oil futures briefly climbed past the $102-a-barrel level during Asian trading hours.
PetroChina Co. /zigman2/quotes/206980083/delayed CN:601857 -0.19% /zigman2/quotes/205108732/composite PTR -1.26% gained 2.2% in Shanghai, Linc Energy Ltd. rose 4.1% in Sydney and Inpex Corp. /zigman2/quotes/206689846/delayed JP:1605 -0.23% /zigman2/quotes/206936121/delayed IPXHF +5.94% added 2.8% in Tokyo.