Asian Shares Lackluster As Growth Worries Linger

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as soft manufacturing data from China and the U.S. fueled worries about global growth. Japanese shares led declines in the region as the double whammy of a firmer yen and downbeat manufacturing data hit investors’ risk appetite. Investors eagerly waited for Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech later in the day for additional clarity on when the U.S. central bank plans to raise interest rates.

China’s Shanghai Composite index rose 26.80 points or 0.86 percent to 3,142.69 after losing more than 2 percent in the previous session on growth worries. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 206.93 points or 0.97 percent to 21,095.98.

Japanese shares tumbled as trading resumed after a three-day holiday. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 498.38 points or 2.76 percent to 17,571.83, while the broader Topix index of all first-section shares dropped 2.42 percent to finish at 1,426.97.

Automakers Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi Motors, Nissan and Toyota lost 2-7 percent after Volkswagen chief executive Martin Winterkorn announced his resignation, accepting responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines. Ibiden and NGK Insulators, which manufacture diesel particulate filters, plummeted 7-8 percent.

Market heavyweight Fast Retailing shed 1.9 percent, robot maker Fanuc dropped 2.8 percent and mobile carrier Softbank Corp slumped 6.3 percent. Nomura Holdings lost 3.2 percent after the country’s biggest brokerage said that it had agreed to settle legal claims brought by Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA over a 2009 deal dubbed Alexandria that allegedly obscured losses at the Italian lender. Bucking the downtrend, J Front Retailing, Seven & i Holdings and Oracle Corporation Japan rose 1-3 percent.

In economic news, Japanese manufacturing activity expanded at a slower pace in September as new order growth moderated in the latest sign of weakness for the world’s third-largest economy, the latest survey from Nikkei revealed with a PMI score of 50.9, missing forecasts for a score of 51.2 and down from a final 51.7 in August.

Australian shares rebounded from a two-year low hit in the previous session after a closely followed survey confirmed an ongoing contraction in China’s manufacturing sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index finished up 73.6 points or 1.47 percent at 5,071.7, reversing a large portion of Wednesday’s losses. The broader All Ordinaries index advanced 69.8 points or 1.39 percent to close at 5,102.3. The big four banks closed up more than 1 percent each after steep losses in the previous session.

BHP Billiton shares edged up 0.2 percent, showing little reaction to news that U.S.-based asset manager BlackRock has cut its stake in the mining giant. Rival Rio Tinto rose 0.7 percent while Fortescue Metals Group dropped 1.4 percent. Gold miner Newcrest Mining rallied 3.4 percent and Evolution Mining advanced 2.7 percent after gold futures snapped a two-day losing streak to settle higher on Wednesday amid a wave of short covering.

Woodside Petroleum gained 2.4 percent and Oil Search added 1.7 percent. Crude prices recovered in Asian deals after plummeting for a second straight session on Wednesday. Santos shed 0.6 percent after the oil & gas producer said it had started production from its GNLG liquefied natural gas project in Queensland.

Brickworks shares fell 0.9 percent as the building products group reported a 24 percent fall in full-year profit on impairment charges. Shares of childcare provider G8 Education tumbled 3.2 percent. Departing Chair Jenny Hutson denied her resignation is due to any fall out with management or the board.

Seoul shares ended off their day’s highs as foreign funds extended their selling spree to a fourth consecutive session amid lingering worries about China’s slowdown and the prospects of a Fed rate hike. The benchmark Kospi average closed up 2.46 points or 0.13 percent at 1,947.10 after rising as much as 0.7 percent in early trade.

Automotive parts maker Hyundai Mobis rose 1.2 percent after unveiling a share buyback program. Samsung SDI, the world’s largest provider of Lithium-ion batteries, gained 2 percent on the back of expectations that an ongoing probe into Volkswagen’s emissions-cheating scandal will boost demand for hybrid and electric vehicles.

New Zealand shares rose after Fonterra Cooperating Group, the world’s biggest dairy exporter, announced higher than expected dairy payout forecast. While units of Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund climbed 4.6 percent, telecom giant Spark New Zealand, held by investors for its dividend yield, advanced 2.6 percent. The benchmark NZX-50 index gained 22.47 points or 0.40 percent to finish at 5,676.81.

In economic releases, New Zealand posted a merchandise trade deficit of NZ$1.03 billion in August, Statistics New Zealand said today – representing 28 percent of exports. The headline figure missed forecasts for a shortfall of NZ$875 million following a NZ$649 million deficit in July.

Elsewhere, India’s Sensex was moving up 0.2 percent ahead of a long weekend and the upcoming monetary policy meeting on Tuesday. The Taiwan Weighted shed 0.9 percent in the wake of sluggish data, which showed that the country’s industrial output declined for the fourth straight month in August and at a faster-than-expected pace.

Financial markets in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were closed for the Hari Raya Haji holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks fell slightly overnight, with the Dow Industrials and S&P 500 logging losses for the fourth day in five sessions, as a rebound in commodity prices fizzled out and weak Chinese and U.S. factory output data hit resource and industrial stocks. The Dow slid 0.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 eased 0.2 percent.

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