Asian stocks skid on growth fears, but China bucks trend

Stocks on the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index are seen in this share price board at the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney.
Peter Parks | AFP | Getty Images
Stocks on the benchmark S&P/ASX200 index are seen in this share price board at the Australian Stock Exchange in Sydney.

Asian stocks outside China skidded on Monday, tracking an uninspiring lead from Wall Street, as the Federal Reserve's decision to keep interest rates near zero stoked concerns about global growth.

"It's going to be a really tough week because we have the combination of [uncertainty] over what the People's Bank of China (PBOC) and the Fed wants. It seems that the Fed has moved the goalpost and that upset U.S. markets on Friday," Adrian Mowat, MD and chief Asian and emerging market equity strategist at J.P. Morgan, said early Monday.

"We are [seeing] people closing out risk positions so you see the U.S. dollar weakening, [as well as] the yen and euro beginning to appreciate," Mowat added in his interview with CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box."

Dollar-yen inched down 0.2 percent at 119.77 in Asian trade, while the euro gained 0.1 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar to trade at 1.13.

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Major U.S. averages finished sharply lower last Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing down 1.7 percent. The S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.6 and 1.4 percent respectively.

Meanwhile, attention may also turn to Greece, where Prime Minister-elect Alexis Tsipras claimed victory in the country's general elections on Sunday and will return to power in a coalition government with the right-wing Independent Greeks. Speaking to cheering crowds in a central Athens square, Tspiras said he "felt vindicated" after quitting in August to start on a clean slate with voters, Reuters reported.

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China indices rebound

China's Shanghai Composite index reversed a more than 1-percent loss to end up 1.9 percent on Monday, outperforming regional peers who followed the negative cues from Wall Street.

Among the mainland's other indexes, the benchmark CSI300 Index bounced up 1.8 percent, making most of the gains in the final hour of trading. Small-caps made bigger advances to clinch more than one-week highs, with the Shenzhen Composite and start-up board ChiNext closing up 3.5 and 4.7 percent respectively.

"It's getting difficult to predict how the market is going to move on a weekly basis," said Hao Hong, managing director of research & chief strategist at the Bank of Communications International. "Last week, we saw interesting pricing action especially in the last half [and] hour before the market close. The market tends to rally or plunge 4-5 percent at the last hour of trading, making it very difficult to predict."

The country's top economic planner announced the implementation of mixed ownership reforms in electricity, oil, rail and airlines sectors as part of Beijing's overhaul of its inefficient state-owned enterprises, Reuters cited state media reports on Monday. Related stocks advanced as a result; Huadian Power International and GD Power Development rose more than 1 percent each, while Air China led gains in the aviation sector by climbing 4 percent.

In other news, current market perceptions of China are "thoroughly divorced" from the reality on the ground, according to the latest China Beige Book (CCB) survey, which has found that while the economy slowed in the third quarter, there are no signs of an impending growth collapse.

ASX skids 2.2%

Australia's S&P ASX 200 index finished at its lowest level in nearly a week as the possibility of a slowdown in global growth ignited 'risk-off' sentiment.

"Australian stocks have been suffering today after global sentiment was dented by the Fed leaving rates on hold. December is now the most likely date for the Fed to raise rates this year, but in the wake of last week's decision many believe they could be forced to wait until 2016, adding to the general sense of pessimism about the global economy," IG's market analyst Angus Nicholson wrote in a note.

"The main bright spot for the ASX at the moment is the prospect of further mergers and acquisitions, but a general sense of pessimism is likely to continue until some decent data on the Chinese economy starts to filter out," Nicholson added.

All four major lenders crashed between 2.4 and 3.2 percent, contributing significant downside pressure on the bourse. Investment group Macquarie Group slumped 1.9 percent and insurer QBE tanked 2.4 percent.

Miners were almost among the worst-hit, with market bellwether BHP Billiton falling 2.8 percent. Rivals Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals also skidded 3 and 4.1 percent respectively.

Shares of energy producers turned mixed as oil prices edged up in early Asian trade. Santos erased early losses to close up 0.6 percent, while Woodside Petroleum lost 3.1 percent, recovering slightly from a more than 4-percent loss at the open. The oil and gas producer is reportedly considering raising $2-3 billion in debt to fund a sweetened takeover bid for Oil Search, whose shares ticked up 0.1 percent.

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Kospi loses 1.6%

South Korea's Kospi index broke a four-day winning streak after pulling back from a more than one-month high attained in the previous session.

Among losers, the bourse's top weighted stock Samsung Electronics tumbled 3.4 percent, while Hyundai Motor and Posco eased more than 3 and 2 percent respectively. Semiconductor chipmaker SK Hynix also fell 2.7 percent.

EM Asia down

Taiwan's weighted index chalked up losses of nearly 2 percent on Monday, with large-cap Hon Hai Precision Industry Co falling 1.5 percent following a report by the Nikkei business daily that it is buying Sharp's liquid panel display business.

Tourism stocks failed to get a boost from news that the government is raising the cap on Chinese tourists to 5,000 per day from 4,000 previously starting Monday. Formosa International Hotel and Leofoo Development closed down 1.6 and 2.2 percent respectively, while Eva Airways plunged 2.6 percent.

Malaysia's FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI fell 1.3 percent as investors eyed news that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched an investigation into allegations of money-laundering at state fund 1MDB, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday citing an unidentified source.

The Malaysian ringgit lost more than 1 percent of its value versus the greenback to trade at 4.250.

Meanwhile, markets in Japan are closed for the Respect for the Aged Day.