Asian stocks close mostly down, India tumbles


Posted at Jun 20 2008 07:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 21 2008 03:23 AM

Agence France-Presse

HONG KONG - Asian stocks closed mostly down Friday with India tumbling over three percent after its inflation rate surged, but China rallied following a sudden government fuel price hike.

The Indian stock market slid 3.42 percent as inflation raced to its highest level in 13 years, hitting more than 11 percent in the wake of a fuel price hike and piling pressure on the government as general elections loom.

But Chinese shares jumped just over three percent after the government hiked retail fuel prices as much as 18 percent, with a rally in oil company shares helping to push up the Shanghai bourse.

World oil prices had fallen back after China announced the move but stabilized at around 132 dollars per barrel Friday. Some investors were cautious with oil producers and consumers to meet in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japanese and Australian shares fell more than one percent and Taiwan was 1.81 percent lower. Hong Kong and South Korea also fell but Singapore rose.

Among smaller markets, Thailand rebounded more than 3.5 percent. Shares there have been hit by political uncertainty.

Asian investors were also jittery Friday about the outlook for the US economy, which is battling a slowdown, and upcoming corporate earnings.

TOKYO: Japanese share prices ended 1.33 percent lower as investors found little reason to buy following a subdued performance overnight on Wall Street, dealers said.

The benchmark Nikkei-225 index dropped 188.09 points to end at 13,942.08. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares lost 18.86 points or 1.37 percent to 1,356.74.

"The direction of crude oil prices is currently investors' major concern," Masanaga Kono, strategist at Societe Generale Asset Management, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Inpex Holdings fell 3.7 percent to 1.29 million yen, Mitsubishi Corp. gave up 2.3 percent to 3,460 yen and Itochu lost 2.4 percent to 1,161 yen.

Sanyo slid 5.0 percent to 266 yen and GS Yuasa slumped 7.8 percent to 556 yen.

Tokyo Electron was down 1.8 percent at 6,610 yen and Elpida Memory 2.7 percent lower at 3,660 yen.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong share prices closed down 0.23 percent, dealers said.

The Hang Seng Index closed down 52.01 points at 22,745.6. Turnover remained low at 72.69 billion Hong Kong dollars (9.32 billion US).

"Buying interest remains weak due to the poor Chinese market and Chinese economic concerns," Castor Pang, a strategist at SHK Financial, told Dow Jones Newswires.

Sinopec ended up 1.1 percent at 8.08 dollars. PetroChina rose 1.6 percent to 10.46 dollars. Yanzhou Coal shed 7.5 percent to 13.80 dollars.

SYDNEY: Australian shares closed down 1.5 percent, dealers said.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 78.3 points to 5,288.3 while the broader All Ordinaries dropped 72.5 points to 5,411.8.

Volume was 1.9 billion shares worth about 6.6 billion (6.3 billion US dollars).

"We had seen some good gains from the miners early in the session on stronger gold and copper prices, but they have also slumped into the red," said CommSec market analyst Juliette Saly.

Santos lost 6.21 percent to 20.40. Miner BHP Billiton lost 34 cents to 44.65 and its takeover target Rio Tinto dropped 23 cents to 138.60. Lihir Gold fell nine cents to 3.00. Newmont Mining lost six cents to 5.07.

Westpac lost 45 cents to 20.63, Commonwealth Bank dropped 54 cents to 39.36, and National Australia Bank dipped 76 cents to 25.75. Investment bank Macquarie lost 2.15 dollars to 46.60.

SHANGHAI: Chinese share prices closed 3.01 percent higher, dealers said.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, closed up 82.86 points at 2,831.74 on turnover of 79.2 billion yuan (10.2 billion dollars).

Oil majors and power firms surged after the announcement late Thursday that petrol and diesel prices would go up by as much as 18 percent from Friday.

"Shares turned higher because both Sinopec and PetroChina are heavily weighted in the market," said Wang Xiaoli, an analyst at Orient Securities.

"The price hike will have positive impacts on earnings prospects of oil majors as well as the broad market, with limited impact on inflation," he added.

The Shanghai A-share Index was up 3.02 percent at 2,970.93. The Shenzhen A-share Index added 1.82 percent at 831.92.

PetroChina gained 4.55 percent to 15.86 yuan. Sinopec rose 2.07 percent to 12.83 yuan.

Huaneng Power International and Huadian Power International both rose by the 10 percent daily limit to 8.79 yuan and 5.15 yuan, respectively.

Airlines closed lower after the government raised aviation kerosene prices.

Air China was down 2.74 percent to 7.81 yuan and China Eastern Airlines slid 3.82 percent to 6.29.

SAIC Motor shed 4.58 percent to 8.34 yuan, while FAW Car tumbled 7.33 percent to 8.85 yuan.

China Shenhua Energy lost 4.22 percent to 38.09 yuan after Beijing imposed a six-month freeze on prices of coal for sale to electricity producers.

TAIPEI: Taiwan share prices closed down 1.81 percent, dealers said.

The weighted index was down 145.30 points at 7,902.44 at a four-month low. Turnover was 95.41 billion Taiwan dollars (3.14 billion US).

Selling picked up as the index fell below the 8,000 points mark, Taiwan International Securities analyst Andrew Teng said.

"Without clear indications in the US economy, cautious market sentiment continued to dominate the local bourse," Yuanta Securities Investment Consulting analyst Young Wanghe said.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. was down 0.60 at 63.70 dollars but rival United Microelectronics Corp. gained 0.05 to 16.75.

AU Optronics rose 0.10 to 51.10, while Asustek Computer closed unchanged at 82.00.

Chinatrust Financial fell 0.75 to 28.55 and Cathay Financial shed 0.50 to 71.10. China Airlines gained 0.20 to 13.80 while EVA Airways was 0.10 lower at 14.70.

SEOUL: South Korean shares closed 0.6 percent lower, dealers said.

The KOSPI index ended down 9.72 points at 1,731.00. Volume was 322 million shares worth 4.2 trillion won (4.08 billion dollars).

"Investors seem to be sceptical about the sustainability of the oil price drop," said Ryu Yong-Seok, an analyst at Hyundai Securities.

Kookmin Bank fell 0.8 percent to 61,300 won. LG Electronics dropped 0.8 percent to 128,000 won.

SK Energy slid 4.4 percent to 109,000 won and S-Oil was off 3.8 percent at 67,900 won.

SINGAPORE: Singapore share prices closed 0.31 percent higher, dealers said.

The blue-chip Straits Times Index (STI) rose 9.15 points to 3,001.81 on volume of 1.14 billion shares worth 1.34 billion Singapore dollars (986 million US).

The Fed would likely keep interest rates on hold in view of inflation fears, but a "measured hike in the Fed funds rate toward the year-end cannot be ruled out," CIMB said.

"Our view is that the STI could trade rangebound in the immediate term with upside capped at 3,068 max, with downside bias remaining at 2,915," said DBS Vickers.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp rose one cent to 8.22 Singapore dollars. CapitaLand climbed 36 cents to 6.08. Singapore Airlines rose 10 cents to 14.92.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian share prices closed 0.9 percent higher, dealers said.

The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index added 10.28 points to 1,206.67.

"There's still a fair bit of nervousness in the market as investors are wary of more negative surprises," a dealer told Dow Jones Newswires.

Maybank added 0.7 percent to close at 7.10 ringgit and Telekom was 3.2 percent higher at 3.26 ringgit.

BANGKOK: The Thai stock market closed up 3.56 percent, dealers said.

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index soared 26.44 points to close at 768.90 points, while the blue-chip SET 50 index rebounded 21.88 points to close at 550.46.

About 8,000 supporters of the People's Alliance for Democracy were gathered at Government House in central Bangkok Friday afternoon for a protest. The stock market has been hit by the political uncertainty.

JAKARTA: Indonesian shares closed little changed, dealers said.

The Jakarta Composite Index fell 1.29 points to 2,371.77.

"Selling in finance-related stocks kept the main index in negative territory despite a rebound in telecommunication stocks," a trader told Dow Jones Newswires.

Bank Mandiri fell 5.3 percent at 2,675 rupiah on ex-dividend trade. Telkom gained 2.7 percent at 7,750 rupiah on plans to give a 478.45 rupiah a share dividend later this June.

MANILA: Philippine share prices closed 0.5 percent lower, dealers said.

The composite index lost 14.02 points to 2,578.57, while the all-share index fell 0.3 percent to 1,631.36 points.

"Oil prices have to correct further. An overnight decline isn't enough to turn sentiment around," Gomer Tan of Regina Capital Securities told Dow Jones Newswires.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. fell 0.2 percent to 2,470 pesos. Leading conglomerate Ayala Corp. slipped 2.5 percent to 290 pesos.

San Miguel Corp. saw its A and B shares remain at 41 and 42 pesos respectively.

WELLINGTON: New Zealand share prices closed down 1.70 percent, dealers said.

The NZX-50 gross index fell 56.68 points to close at 3,283.43 -- its lowest since it hit 3183.31 in December 2005.

"Basically people appear to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater at the moment," said David Price of Forsyth Barr.

Telecom fell 12 cents to 3.73 dollars, Contact Energy dropped 17 cents to 8.15, and Fletcher Building slid 13 cents to a fresh three-year low of 6.41.

MUMBAI: Indian shares closed down 3.42 percent, dealers said.

The benchmark Mumbai 30-share Sensex index slid 516.7 points to 14,571.29.

Earlier, the Sensex had plunged 568.72 points to hit an intra-day low of 14,519.27 points, its lowest for the year.

The fall came as inflation hit a 13-year high above 11 percent.

"Investors are clearly spooked by the inflation data. Overseas funds sell-offs and a further rate hike could push equities lower," said Atul Hatwar, a dealer at Crosseas Securities.