Asia stocks fall on weaker US housing data

Asia stocks fall after US housing data suggests home sales may level off and stall recovery

Associated Press

BANGKOK (AP) -- Asian stock markets fell Friday after the latest data on U.S. housing dimmed hopes of improvement in an industry that is crucial to recovery in the world's No. 1 economy.

The National Association of Realtors' index of sales agreements showed Thursday that the number of Americans who signed contracts to buy homes rose only slightly in September from August. That suggests sales may level off in the coming months after solid gains in the past year.

The figures were a letdown for investors whose hopes had been bolstered by data Wednesday that showed new home sales rose last month to the highest annual pace in the past two and a half years.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.9 percent to 8,973.97. South Korea's Kospi slid 1.5 percent to 1,896.70. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.9 percent to 21,620.87. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.7 percent to 4,478.60.

A mixed batch of U.S. corporate earnings did little to kindle interest in risky assets. Infant formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition reported revenue well below what analysts expected. Profits at United Airlines slid with fewer people flying. But consumer products company Procter & Gamble posted earnings that beat analysts' estimates.

Investors preferred to book profits on recent gains while waiting for additional data to confirm recent signs that China's manufacturing slowdown may be close to bottoming out.

"The Hong Kong market is at a relatively high level. We need more data to confirm what is our next move, so now it's time for profit-taking," said Linus Yip, strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong.

Among individual stocks, Kia Motors Corp. tumbled 5.8 percent after the company reported a third-quarter net profit that was below expectations. The company, South Korea's second-largest carmaker, was hobbled by a labor strike over the summer and weak domestic sales.

Samsung Electronics fell 2 percent, even though the company posted a record third quarter profit as concerns over long-term growth weighed stocks down.

But Hong Kong-listed Bank of China rose 1 percent after announcing its quarterly profit rose 17 percent despite an economic slowdown.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.2 percent to 13,103.68. The Standard & Poor's 500 rose 0.3 percent to 1,412.97. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.2 percent to 2,986.12.

Benchmark oil for December delivery was down 57 cents to $85.48 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 32 cents to finish at $86.05 in New York on Thursday, its first rise in four days.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.2934 from $1.2949. The dollar fell to 80.07 yen from 80.29 yen.

___

Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson

View Comments