Bangkok: Asian markets were mixed on Wednesday after another day with no clear signal from Wall Street or on the direction of the US economy.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.2% to 12,972.1 points as investors there sold banking shares on Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke’s remarks overnight that more home foreclosures in the US are likely.
On shaky ground: US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.2% as investors sold banking shares on his remarks that more home foreclosures in the US are likely.
Meanwhile, anxiety about what China will do to control inflation undermined stocks in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.02% to 23,114.3 and the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1% to 4,292.7.
Japanese investors reacted little to data showing Japan’s corporate spending is weakening. Capital spending declined 7.7% in the October-December quarter from a year ago, marking the biggest fall since July-September 2002, the country’s ministry of finance said.
But some analysts said the data may affect the market later. “The results may not have sunk in yet, and the market might not have seen a serious impact from that,” said Yasuyoshi Shizuma of BNP Paribas. “But investors are probably basing their investment decisions on the results in the mid- to long-term.”
Bank shares were lower following Bernanke’s remarks that banks and lenders should write down some of the principal on bad mortgage loans. Mizuho Financial Group fell 3.1% and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group dropped 2.3%.
Trading houses were higher, with Marubeni climbing 8.5% after saying it had discovered a natural gas find in the North Sea off the UK.
Traders said the Hong Kong market will likely be volatile in the near term as investors take cues from Chinese markets and watch for possible policy announcements during the annual meeting of the China’s National People’s Congress.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, in his annual report to Chinese lawmakers, targeted 8% economic growth for 2008, and said Beijing will maintain a tight monetary policy and prudent fiscal policy to achieve its aim of keeping inflation at no more than 4.8%.
Curbing inflation remains a priority in 2008, and authorities will aim to prevent economic overheating, he said.
Chinese financial firms listed in Hong Kong fell on credit tightening concerns. China Life Insurance dropped 1.2%, Bank of Communications fell 1.1% and China Construction Bank ended 0.7% lower.
Coal maker Shenhua Energy sank 2.6% after Wen said China will promote clean energy.
Chinese telecommunications stocks shined on news of industry restructuring. China Unicom, the best performing blue chip in Hong Kong on Wednesday, surged 7.5% and China Netcom gained 6.2%.
Beijing’s determination to slow economic growth and rein in inflation also sank shares in Shanghai. Large-capitalized shares fell as institutional investors pared their holdings on worries further tightening would slow earnings growth.
Among regional benchmarks, the largest gains were posted in India and New Zealand. The largest loss was posted in Malaysia, where the composite index on the Kuala Lumpur exchange fell 2.6%.