Asia stocks fall on China manufacturing weakness

Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks fell Monday after China's manufacturing weakened in June amid a credit crunch.

China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.7 percent to 1,965.25 while Seoul's Kospi lost 0.1 percent to 1,862.21. Taipei's Taiex declined 0.2 percent to 8,049.66 and Singapore, Jakarta and New Zealand stocks also fell.

The regional heavyweight, Tokyo's Nikkei 225, was the only major market to post a gain, rising 0.5 percent to 13,744.05. Investors in Japan have been cheered by stronger industrial production and an improvement in business confidence.

Separate reports Monday by HSBC Corp. and a Chinese industry group showed China's manufacturing weakened in June for a second month.

U.S. and European orders for Chinese goods weakened and Beijing tried to slow rapid credit growth. That effort led to a cash shortage in Chinese credit markets and caused interest rates on loans by banks to other banks to spike.

"The risk is now predominantly on the downside, especially after the recent liquidity squeeze in the interbank market," said IHS economist Xianfang Ren in a report. "The Chinese economy is far from out of the woods yet."

Chinese President Xi Jinping was quoted Saturday by state media as saying officials shouldn't be judged solely on increasing economic output, adding to signs the communist leadership is prepared to accept lower growth.

In Australia, where a boom fueled by Chinese demand for iron ore, copper and coal is cooling, Sydney's ASX/S&P 200 lost 1.7 percent to 4,721.

"Wage growth and job security in the mining industry is going to be under pressure, and the current status quo is going to change as mining companies adjust to a slower China," said Evan Lucas of IG Markets in a report.

In the United States, the Federal Reserve is trying to calm jittery investors' concerns about the central bank's planned reduction in monthly purchases of financial assets. Those purchases, dubbed quantitative easing, are aimed at stimulating the economy by pushing down market interest rates and investors worry any pullback could depress growth.

Investors in Japan have been cheered by figures showing industrial production rose 2 percent in May while the consumer price index stopped falling for the first time in seven months. The Bank of Japan is engaged in a massive monetary stimulus to reverse a two-decade-old bout of deflation. On Monday, a survey showed business confidence of major manufacturers turned positive for the first time in nearly two years.

HSBC's monthly purchasing managers index for China declined to 48.2 points from May's 49.2 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show a contraction. A separate measure by the state-sanctioned China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing declined to 50.1 from May's 50.8.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was down 21 cents to $96.35 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

In currency markets, the dollar gained to 99.39 yen from 99.11 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.3021 from $1.3013.

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