Asian Stocks Decline


Asian stocks declined, led by banks and technology companies, after the benchmark index’s biggest weekly gain since August 2007 drove valuations to the highest in more than a year.

Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia’s largest investment bank, slumped 4.5 percent, leading the first decline among financial companies in six days, amid skepticism U.S. and Japanese plans to purchase debt will ease the financial crisis. China Mobile Ltd. dropped 5.4 percent in Hong Kong as Bank of America Corp. predicted the company’s earnings will fall. Alibaba.com Ltd., operator of China’s biggest trading Web site, lost 12 percent after profit missed analyst estimates.

Japan’s stock market is closed for a holiday. The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index dropped 1.1 percent to 233.51 as of 6:45 p.m. in Hong Kong, cutting its advance this week to 5 percent. The gauge that includes Japan has climbed 6.9 percent in that time, the most since the week ended Aug. 24, 2007, as banks including Barclays Plc and Standard Chartered Plc reported strong” starts to the year.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 2.3 percent to 12,883.51, while Taiwan’s Taiex Index lost 1.5 percent. Stock markets in Singapore, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines advanced.

European stocks fluctuated between gains and declines as a loss at Ericsson AB’s mobile-phone venture dragged down technology shares, offsetting a rally in commodity producers. Asian shares fell, while U.S. futures rose.

Ericsson AB slid 8.8 percent after Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications Ltd. predicted a pretax loss of as much as 390 million euros ($529 million). Bayer AG soared 7.1 percent after the German chemical maker and partner Johnson & Johnson won a U.S. panel’s backing to introduce the first new anti-clotting pill in 55 years. SeaDrill Ltd. and Anglo American Plc rose more than 4 percent as commodities headed for the biggest weekly gain in two months.

The MSCI World Index slid for the first time in nine days, losing 0.5 percent at 12:59 p.m. in London. The gauge of 23 developed countries has gained 5.6 percent this week as U.S. housing starts climbed 22 percent, the Fed said it will buy $300 billion of government bonds, and the Bank of Japan boosted the amount of government debt it will buy from banks each month to combat the first global recession since World War II.

Europe’s Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index added 0.3 percent after earlier falling 1.3 percent, extending its weekly advance to 2.3 percent. Barclays Plc lead a slump in banks after the Guardian reported the U.K. lender may have made 1 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) through tax avoidance.


TradingEconomics.com, Bloomberg
3/20/2009 6:31:47 AM