Hong Kong: Asian stocks fell after US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said inflation remains his main concern, prompting a decline in the dollar. Toyota Motor Corp. and Samsung Electronics Co. led exporters lower.
“Bernanke implied an early rate cut is not likely,’’ said Soichiro Monji, who helps oversee about $47 billion (Rs2,02,758 crore) at Daiwa SB Investments Ltd in Tokyo. “Weak US economic indicators should result in a weak dollar. Theoretically, these factors should only affect the exporters, but the events are affecting investor sentiment generally.’’
Rising crude prices raised concerns that fuel costs may increase for some companies. Inpex Holdings Inc. and Woodside Petroleum Ltd paced an advance by oil producers.
The Morgan Stanley Capital International Asia-Pacific Index slipped 0.7% to 143.97 at 10:58 am in Tokyo. All of the measure’s 10 industry indexes fell except for energy.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average and the broader Topix Index lost 0.9%. All markets open for trading declined except in Australia and South Korea.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index dropped 0.8%, erasing its gain for the year.
Weaker-than-forecast durable goods data added to reports this week that the housing market continues to deteriorate and consumer confidence is waning. In testimony before Congress, Bernanke said inflation is a “greater risk’’ than slower growth, spurring concern the Fed may be unwilling to lower interest rates to prop up the economy.
Toyota, the world’s No. 2 automaker, slid 0.8% to 7,560 yen. Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s largest maker of computer-memory chips, lost 1.1% to 566,000 won. The company is South Korea’s largest exporter.
Exporters in Japan also declined after the yen strengthened 0.8% to 116.85 against the dollar in New York, its biggest climb since 13 March. A stronger yen decreases the value of Japanese exporters’ dollar-denominated sales when converted into local currency, while their products become less competitive abroad. Japan’s currency recently changed hands at 117.07 versus the dollar.
Sony Corp., the maker of the PlayStation 3 game console, dropped 2.8% to 5,910 yen. Canon Inc., which generated almost 75% of its sales from overseas last year, fell 0.9% to 6,350 yen.
“The Japanese market has to be conscious of the implications of Bernanke’s comments,’’ said Juichi Wako, a strategist at Nomura Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The recent tendency toward a stronger yen makes it hard to buy the exporters.’’
Crude Oil Advances
US durable-goods orders excluding transportation unexpectedly fell 0.1%, the Commerce Department said yesterday, a second month of declines. Orders for goods made to last several years were expected to rise 1.8%, according to the median forecast of economists in a Bloomberg News survey.
A measure of energy stocks on MSCI’s Asian benchmark gained 0.6%. Inpex, Japan’s biggest oil explorer, rose 0.6% to 1 million yen. Japan Petroleum Exploration Co., the second biggest, climbed 1.6% to 8,480 yen. Woodside, Australia’s second-largest oil and gas company, added 0.4% to A$39.39.
Crude oil for May delivery rose 1.8% to $64.08 a barrel in New York yesterday, the highest close since 11 September.