World stocks drift before US, China data

BANGKOK — Asia’s major stock markets were mostly lower Friday as nervous investors turned their focus to China after digesting a report showing a slowdown in Japanese industrial production. European shares, though, headed higher.

By (AP)

Published: Fri 30 Mar 2012, 3:46 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 12:54 PM

Benchmark oil hovered around $103 per barrel after diving the day before to a six-week low. The dollar fell against the euro and the yen.

European shares rose in early trading. A meeting of finance ministers and central bankers in Denmark is expected to discuss ways to increase the lending capacity of emergency rescue funds for the stressed European economies.

Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.3 percent to 5,757.93. Germany’s DAX climbed 0.7 percent to 6,922.42 while France’s CAC-40 added 0.8 percent to 23,407.89.

Wall Street futures were higher before the release by the U.S. Commerce Department of personal income and spending for February. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.2 percent to 13,107 and S&P 500 futures gained 0.2 percent to 1,201.

In Asia, sentiment in stock markets was hurt by news that Japan’s factory production fell a worse-than-expected 1.2 percent in February — its first decline in three months — as demand for exports weakened. The Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo fell 0.3 percent to close at 10,083.56.

There was also nervousness ahead of the release Sunday of an official gauge of China’s manufacturing known as the Purchasing Managers Index. A smaller private sector index released earlier this month showed that manufacturing had continued to contract.

Dariusz Kowalczyk, a senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said he expected to see a modest decline in China’s manufacturing for March.

“This will sustain concerns over whether China’s landing remains soft,” he said, as opposed to an abrupt, hard landing that would jolt the global economy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3 percent to 20,555.58, stung by a sharp sell-off in shares of Sun Hung Kai Properties. Its stock plummeted 13.1 percent after Thomas and Raymond Kwok, the two billionaire brothers who run the territory’s biggest property developer, were arrested in a corruption probe along with a former senior government official.

South Korea’s Kospi index was little changed at 2,014.04. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell less than 0.1 percent to 4,335.20.

Mainland Chinese shares were mixed. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 percent to 2,262.79 while the Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 891.84. Shares in real estate and financial led the gains while wine producers and nonferrous metals weakened. The mainland market will be closed in the next five days for a public holiday.

Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, said some of the market downdraft could be attributed to selling by traders trying to tidy up their portfolios as the quarter ends.

“They unload their underperforming stocks, especially the ones with scandals,” he said. “Some second or third tier stocks are being sold off a lot. They don’t want to show clients that they hold these kinds of stocks.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong-listed Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the country’s biggest state-owned lender, jumped 1.6 percent after saying its 2011 profit increased 26.2 percent despite a slowing economy and government lending controls.

Benchmark oil for May delivery was up 32 cents to $103.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Thursday, the contract plunged $2.63 to $102.78 after French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said there’s a “good chance” that the U.S. and Europe will agree to release some of their oil reserves.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3343 from $1.3287 late Thursday in New York. The dollar fell to 82.15 yen from 82.40 yen.

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