Asian stocks fall after Japan posts trade deficit

Asian stocks fall after Japan posts trade deficit and as investors await euro crisis progress

Associated Press
Asian stocks fall after Japan posts trade deficit
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FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2012 file photo, specialists Thomas Bishop, left, and Michael Pistillo work at their post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Stocks are ending the Monday, just lower as Apple became the most valuable company ever, with a market value of $623 billion, surpassing Microsoft's record from 1999. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stocks fell after Japan reported on Wednesday that it fell back into a trade deficit last month because of languishing exports and as investors watched for progress on bailout conditions for Greece by eurozone policymakers.

Energy shares led declines as major oil and gas companies reported disappointing earnings as the global economic outlook — and energy demand — remained uncertain.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index shed 0.4 percent to 9,119.87, while South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.8 percent to 1,926.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.8 percent to 19,934.98, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.3 percent to 4,372.20.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.4 percent to 2,110.25. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and New Zealand also fell.

Provisional trade figures showed Japan posted a 517.4 billion ($6.5 billion) trade deficit in July, compared with a surplus the year before, as exports fell 8 percent. Exports of autos and electronics by Asia's second-biggest economy have been hurt by the strengthening yen as well as weak demand from Europe as it battles a debt crisis.

Investors are also awaiting developments as Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras meets Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the eurozone finance ministers' meetings, in Athens later Wednesday. Samaras heads to Berlin and Paris on Friday and Saturday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

Samaras is expected to request an extension of Greece's deadline to meet fiscal targets as the country carries out painful reforms. Greek officials are preparing €11.5 billion ($14.2 billion) in spending cuts the country needs to carry out in order to receive rescue loans protecting it from bankruptcy.

"With the Greek PM's meetings kicking off later today, eyes will likely remain on Europe," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note. "Given plenty of event risks, investors are likely to turn cautious."

Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd. fell 3 percent after the energy company reported that first-half profit fell 1.9 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, dipped 0.3 percent. The company is expected to report its first drop in annual profit since 2009 when it announces earnings after trading closes in Sydney.

In Hong Kong, shares of CNOOC Ltd., one of China's three major state-owned oil and gas producers, fell 1.8 percent a day after it reported first-half profit fell 19 percent.

PetroChina, China's biggest oil and gas company , fell 2.2 percent ahead of first-half earnings report, expected later in the day.

On Wall Street on Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.5 percent to close at 13,203.58 while the broader S&P 500 lost 0.3 percent to 1,413.17 after touching its highest level in more than four years. The Nasdaq composite index lost 0.3 percent to 3,067.26.

Crude oil fell rose 1 cent to $96.85 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 71 cents to settle at $96.68 per barrel in New York on Tuesday.

In currencies, the euro weakened slightly to $1.2464 from $1.2467 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar fell to 79.27 Japanese yen from 79.42 yen.

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