Asia-Pacific Markets

Asia Ends Down, Tokyo Snaps Winning Streak

CNBC with wires

Asian stock markets ended lower on Tuesday, after comments from Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke renewed concerns over a sluggish U.S. economy.

Tokyo Snaps 6-Day Winning Streak

Japan's Nikkei Average slipped 0.3 percent to snap a six-day winning streak, with profit-taking and an increase in the yen against the dollar eating away at recent gains made by exporters.

Nippon Yusen and other shipping firms dropped after the Baltic Exchange's main sea freight index, which tracks rates to ship dry commodities, fell for the first time in four days.

Market players said they saw little impact on the stock market from the government's announcement of a 7.2 trillion yen ($81 billion) stimulus package, up slightly from its original plan to spend 7.1 trillion yen.

The spending -- which amounts to about 1.5 percent of GDP -- will not involve large-scale new debt issuance as Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama is keen to avoid his administration being seen as lacking fiscal discipline.

In moderate trade, the benchmark Nikkei fell 27.13 points to 10,140.47, a day after hitting a six-week closing high in the last of six days of rises that saw the index climb nearly
12 percent.

The broader Topix inched down 0.3 percent to 896.70.

Blue-chip exporters were hit by profit-taking after their recent gains on the back of the dollar's surge up to 90 yen on better-than-expected U.S. jobs data that came out on Friday, market players said.    

But Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke pushed the dollar lower when he said inflation could remain subdued but the U.S. unemployment rate could stay elevated for some time and that the U.S. economy faces "formidable headwinds," including tight credit conditions.

Canon fell 1.1 percent to 3,710 yen and TDK Corp slid 1.7 percent to 5,170 yen. Nikon Corp, a stepper maker, fell 1.1 percent to 1,715 yen.

Nippon Yusen, Japan's largest shipping firm, lost 5.7 percent to 267 yen and Kawasaki Kisen K.K. skidded 5.4 percent to 264 yen. Mitsui O.S.K. Lines shed 3.3 percent to 498 yen.

Japan Airlines fell 2.8 percent to 104 yen, after Japan's transport minister said the government has not made any decision on whether the state will guarantee funds for the
struggling company.

South Korea Edges Lower

Seoul shares ended 0.3 percent lower, pressured by losses in financials and commodities issues such as POSCO as well as caution before key economic data and a central bank interest rate decision.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) finished down 0.30 percent at 1,627.78 points.

Shares in Samsung SDI rose 0.35 percent after news that SB LiMotive, a car battery joint venture between South Korea's Samsung SDI and Germany's Robert Bosch, has agreed to supply U.S. auto parts maker Delphi with batteries for hybrid commercial vehicles.

OCI rallied after the South Korean polysilicon maker said on Tuesday that it had decided to increase investment in constructing a third production plant by more than 10 percent to 970 billion won ($841.7 million).

But commodities related shares in steelmakers continued to retreat after gold and industrial metal prices slumped.

POSCO, the world's number 4 steelmaker, dipped 2.07 percent and Hyundai Steel declined 1.66 percent.

Banking issues also retreated following their recent rising streak, pressured further by local media reports South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) had launched an investigation into banks for possible collusion in setting market rates.

Commission officials declined to comment on the report. Shares in Woori Finance Holdings fell 1.92 percent and Shinhan Financial Group declined 0.64 percent.

Elsewhere shares in Green Cross, the only leading South Korean drug firm able to to mass produce the H1N1 flu vaccine, rallied 5.79 percent in response to a favorable fourth quarter earnings outlook.

China Falls 1.1%

China's key stock index fell 1.06 percent, with banks soft, as worries about increased share supply were heightened by comments suggesting banks may not get government help in a drive
to boost their capital.

The Shanghai Composite Index ended 1.1 percent lower at 3,296.664 points, losing Shanghai A shares outnumbered gainers by 575 to 313, while turnover dropped to a one-week low of 162 billion yuan ($23.72 billion) from Monday's 171 billion yuan.

Banks fell, with Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) sinking 1.49 percent to 5.30 yuan.

The official Securities Times quoted a senior official at Central Huijin, an arm of Beijing's sovereign wealth fund, as saying that it would not re-inject dividends it receives from China's four biggest state-owned banks to ease pressure on them to raise funds.

Chinese banks are expected to turn to capital markets to raise funds and replenish capital after a lending spree in the first half of the year spurred worries about rising risk.

Hong Kong stocks ended lower, dragged lower by HSBC on worries about its exposure to Dubai World, while Chinese banks fell after comments suggesting Beijing may not help boost their capital.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index closed down 1.18 percent, or 264.44 points, at 22,060.52.

Australia Down for Third Day

Australian shares eased 0.1 percent, the third straight day of losses, with sentiment dampened by a reminder from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that the U.S. economy still faced headwinds.

Turnover was moderate, with volumes at 0.8 percent of average.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 has been stuck in a trading range between 4,500 and 4,850 since mid-September, but some analysts were optimistic the market could break higher.

It fell 5.9 points to 4,670.6, taking losses over the past three days to 2.2 percent.

Weakness across the financial sector was offset by a firmer finish for the top miners. Market leader BHP Billiton ended up 1.1 percent to A$41.05 and rival Rio Tinto added 0.4 percent to A$71.90.

Rail and ports operator Asciano Group shares got a lift, up 3.9 percent to A$1.75, after the company signed a 10-year coal haulage contract with a joint venture of Brazilian iron ore giant Vale and Aquila Resources.

Paper merchant PaperlinX shares jumped 8.8 percent to A$0.56 after the company said it was closing a manufacturing plant in the state of Tasmania.

Retail stocks were mostly weaker after a study by Access Economics cautioned that spending next year could be lacklustre as interest rates move higher. David Jones fell 1.5 percent to A$5.44 and Harvey Norman fell 1.6 percent A$4.23.

The market drew scant comfort from a survey that showed Australian businesses confidence rose to a seven-year high last month, despite a second rise in interest rates.

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