Asia stocks fall after US data disappoints

Asia stocks fall after series of disappointing data out of the US pummels the investment mood

Associated Press
Asia stocks fall ahead of US jobs report
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A man walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Wednesday, June 5, 2013. Asian stock markets fell Wednesday as signs the U.S. Federal Reserve might scale back its super-loose monetary policy caused investors to trim equity investments. Japan's Nikkei 225 index tumbled 1.8 percent to 13,295.89, registering disappointment with a lack of detail in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's unveiling of the third plank of his so-called Abenomics program intended to rouse a long-stagnant economy. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets extended losses Thursday after weak U.S. indicators sparked fears of a slowdown in the world's biggest economy. Trading in many European markets, meanwhile, had yet to start as technical problems afflicted exchange owner NYSE Euronext.

The troubling U.S. data included weak hiring by businesses, a plunge in mortgage applications and sluggish orders to factories.

Investors also continued to register their disappointment a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech to business leaders that introduced the third plank of his economic reform program. The Nikkei closed down 0.9 percent at 12,904.02. It tumbled 3.8 percent Wednesday following the speech.

"Abe took positive steps, but the 'third arrow' did not fly as reforms fell below expectations in terms of tax and investment restructuring," Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Corporate Bank in Singapore said in a market commentary.

A technical problem put a stop to some trading at NYSE Euronext, which runs the Paris exchange among others. The source of the problem has yet to be identified, NYSE Euronext said. About a third of European stocks trade on the exchanges owned by NYSE Euronext, the product of a merger between the New York Stock Exchange and Euronext in 2007.

Britain's FTSE 100 rose 0.1 percent to 6,426.07. Germany's DAX advanced 0.1 percent to 8,206.87.

Stan Shamu, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, said investors were unnerved by the uncertainty surrounding the U.S. Federal Reserve's monetary policy.

Fed chief Ben Bernanke has said the U.S. central bank might pull back on its $85 billion a month bond-buying program as economic data improves. But other Fed officials have spoken about a winding down of asset purchases sooner. Shamu said the uncertainty was driving investors out of the market.

"That is not healthy for investor sentiment," Shamu said. "A lot of investors are thinking they should book profits now."

The Fed faces a perilous decision: If it pulls back its stimulus too soon, the U.S. economic recovery could sputter. If it waits too long, super-low rates could ignite inflation. Or they could swell speculative asset bubbles as investors pursue riskier investments, including stocks, with potentially richer returns than low-yielding bonds.

The Fed knows the timing is tricky. It ended its second round of bond purchases in June 2011 only to see economic growth remain weak and unemployment stay at levels more consistent with a recession than a healthy recovery.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.9 percent to 21,859.16. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.1 percent to 4,781.20. Markets in South Korea were closed for a public holiday. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, mainland China and Thailand fell more than 1 percent.

Wall Street sank Wednesday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.4 percent to 14,960.59. The Standard & Poor's 500 slid 1.4 percent to close at 1,608.90. The Nasdaq composite index declined 1.3 percent to 3,401.48.

Investors were unnerved by a sharp 11.5 percent drop in mortgage applications for last week. That was a disappointment because the rebound in housing has been one of the key factors supporting the stock market's record-breaking rally this year.

There was also disappointing news on hiring. A measure of employment in service industries fell to the lowest level since last July. Separately, payroll provider ADP said U.S. businesses added just 135,000 jobs in May, the second straight month of weak gains.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was up 27 cents to $94.01 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 43 cents to close at $93.74 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3120 from $1.3088 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar rose to 99.24 yen from 99.19 yen.

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