Monday, October 21, 2013

Asian Stocks Retreat Ahead of Delayed U.S. Payrolls Data

Asian stocks fell, with regional benchmark index retreating from a five-month high, as investors await the release of delayed U.S. payrolls data to gauge when the Federal Reserve will starting trimming record stimulus.

China Mobile Ltd., the world's largest phone company, dropped 3.6 percent in Hong Kong after posting its biggest profit decline since 1999. Shinhan Financial (055550) Group Co. fell 3.2 percent in Seoul as BNP Paribas plans to sell part of its stake in South Korea's biggest bank. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's No. 1 mining company, gained 2.5 percent in Sydney after increasing its forecast for iron-ore production.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 143.53 as of 12:44 p.m. in Tokyo, with nine of the 10 industry groups on the measure retreating. The gauge closed yesterday at the highest level since May 21 as investors shifted their focus from the resolution of the U.S. fiscal showdown to the timeline for the Fed reducing bond buying.

"There's a lack of catalysts," said Toshiyuki Kanayama, a senior market analyst at Monex Securities Inc. "Investors may be on the sidelines to see the U.S. jobs data."

China's Shanghai Composite Index (SHCOMP) lost 0.7 percent. Home prices climbed in August in 69 of 70 Chinese cities, according to data released by the government today.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.5 percent. South Korea's Kospi index and Taiwan's Taiex both dropped 0.1 percent. Japan's Topix index gained 0.2 percent, while Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.4 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index (AS51) rose 0.5 percent and New Zealand's NZX 50 Index advanced 0.7 percent.

Relative Value

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 3.7 percent this month through yesterday as the U.S. Congress voted to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling. The gauge traded at 13.8 times estimated earnings compared with 15.8 for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index and 14.7 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index.

S&P 500 futures slid 0.1 percent today. The U.S. equity gauge rose less than 1 point in New York yesterday as investors watched corporate earnings to assess the strength of the economy before today's employment data.

The Labor Department report will probably show employers added 180,000 workers in September, the most since April, after a 169,000 gain in August, according to the median estimate of 93 economists surveyed by Bloomberg. The report, originally due Oct. 4, was delayed by the Oct. 1-Oct. 17 partial government shutdown.

Fed Stimulus

The Federal Reserve won't taper bond purchases until March because the shutdown probably slowed fourth-quarter U.S. growth and also interrupted the flow of data, according to economists in a Bloomberg survey. The monthly pace of asset buying will be pared to $70 billion from $85 billion at the Fed's March 18-19 meeting, the median of 40 estimates shows.

"It's a good environment for equities because tapering expectations have been pushed out to next year," Sean Fenton, a Sydney-based fund manager, who helps oversee about $1 billion at Tribeca Investment Partners Ltd., said by telephone. "We still see markets trending higher and there's nothing particular out there that's worrying us in the short term. Growth in the U.S. is steady without being spectacular, so the support remains from the Fed, with very easy monetary conditions."

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China Mobile sank 3.6 percent to HK$82, heading for the lowest close since July 19. Net income fell 8.8 percent to 28.4 billion yuan ($4.7 billion) in the third quarter, according to figures derived from nine-month results released by the Beijing-based company yesterday. The profit missed the 31.1 billion-yuan average of five analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

Shinhan Financial fell 3.2 percent to 47,100 won in Seoul. BNP Paribas, which owns 6.35 percent stake in Shinhan Financial, plans to sell part of its stake in a block sale, according to a term sheet obtained by Bloomberg News. The price likely to be set between 47,000 won to 48,650 won per share, according to the term sheet.

BHP Billiton gained 2.5 percent to A$37.11. The miner raised its full-year iron ore production forecast to 212 million tons from 207 million tons after output for the steelmaking material jumped 23 percent in the three months ended Sept. 30.

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