ASIA MARKETS: China, Japan Stocks Fall, Though Others Gain
02/18/2013| 09:53pm US/Eastern
By Sarah Turner, MarketWatch
SYDNEY (MarketWatch) -- Chinese stocks slipped Tuesday, with casino operators skidding in Hong Kong and property stocks falling on the mainland, while Japanese blue chips also lost ground.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 0.2%, while the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.4%.
Likewise, Japan's blue-chip Nikkei Stock Average edged down 0.1% to pare a 2.1% gain made in the previous session, even as the broader Topix benchmark traded 0.3% higher.
Elsewhere, the picture was brighter, as South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3%, Singapore's Straits Times Index added 0.5%, Taiwan's Taiex advanced 0.3%, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index edged up 0.2% to build on a near four-and-a-half-year high reached in the previous session.
"Investors [are] struggling to rediscover the bullish tone that has pushed many regional indices to multiyear highs," said Perpetual Investments investment market research chief Matthew Sherwood.
Wall Street remained closed Monday for the Presidents Day holiday. U.S. stock futures were pointing to a mildly higher start to trading in the U.S. Tuesday, though action was choppy.
Nasdaq 100 futures (NDH3) were up 1.75 points, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (DJH3) rose 7 points.
In Hong Kong, casino operators saw some big losses, with Hang Seng Index component Sands China Ltd. (>> SANS CHIN ADR) dropping 4.2%, and non-component Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd. (0027.HK) shedding 4.5%.
Analysts at Deutsche Bank said that while Macau gaming stocks have already risen by around 15% since the start of the year on average, gaming revenue figures to date for February suggest that revenue may only rise 2% year-on-year in the month.
Such a result, they said, would fall below market expectations for a 10% year-on-year rise.
"This may be partly luck-driven and partly due to less direct VIP play at Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. (>> Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd (ADR)), which is under Taiwan investigation," the strategists said.
"The market may react negatively to soft Chinese New Year VIP data," they said.
Still, the strategists said that if share prices sell off further due to anti-corruption statements made at or around the National People's Congress on March 5, for example, "we think that will be a good buying opportunity for investors with 6-12 month horizons, as VIP [gambling] accounts for only 30% of Ebitda."
On the Chinese mainland, property companies were losing ground, with Gemdale Corp. down 5.9% and Poly Real Estate Group Co. down 3.7%.
Among financials, broker Citic Securities Co. fell 2.6% in Shanghai.
In Japanese trading, stocks paused after shares rallied Monday on the back of a weaker yen.
The Japanese currency fell at the start of the week after a weekend meeting of the world's top finance ministers and central bankers concluded without admonishing Tokyo for a recent plunge in the yen against rivals.
However, the dollar failed to extend gains on Tuesday, trading at Yen93.81, roughly where it sat late Monday in North America. Reportedly helping cap the dollar's upside, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said that the government wasn't considering purchasing foreign bonds or changing the law that governs the Bank of Japan.
The country's prime minister had said Monday that if the Bank of Japan fails to achieve its inflation target, then he might change the central-bank law.
Currency-sensitive firms lost ground Tuesday along with the dollar, with tech firms among the decliners. Advantest Corp. (>> Advantest Corp) fell 2%, while Tokyo Electron Ltd. , (>> TOK ELCTRN) gave up 2.1%, and robotics firm Fanuc Corp. (>> FANUC ADR) dropped 3.8%.
Renesas Electronics Corp. (>> RENS ELEC ADR) managed to rise 2.8% in the tech sector, however, following a Nikkei news report saying the chip maker would appoint a new president as early as this month.
Earnings were providing a boost for some firms, with tire maker Bridgestone Corp. (>> Bridgestone Corp) up 9.5% after posting a quarterly profit of more than double that of a year earlier and forecasting record earnings for 2013.
Earnings from Australian companies saw Mount Gibson Iron Ltd. drop 5% after the iron-ore extractor said that its first-half profit slumped to 37.1 million Australian dollars ($38.2 million) from $129.9 million in the year-ago period.
South Korean trading saw telecom firms decline, with KT Corp. falling 0.9%, and SK Telecom Co. lower by 0.3%. Heavyweight electronics firm Samsung Electronics Co. (>> Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.) lost 0.5%.
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