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Asian stocks fell for a second day amid slow trading, with the regional benchmark index headed for its biggest annual decline since 2008, after U.S. housing prices fell, damping the earnings outlook for Asia’s exporters.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.6 percent to 113 as of 7:41 p.m. in Tokyo, with all but one of the gauge’s 10 industry groups falling. For the month, the index is heading for a 0.5 percent decline. The measure has dropped 18 percent this year, the most since 2008.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.2 percent today. The gauge was little changed yesterday in New York as better-than-estimated U.S. consumer confidence overshadowed a decline in home prices and concern about Europe’s debt crisis.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.2 percent after a report showed factory output fell 2.6 percent in November as Thailand’s floods disrupted supply chains at manufacturers such as Sony and Honda Motor Co. Trading volume on the Nikkei was 43 percent below the 100-day average.
South Korea’s Kospi Index lost 0.9 percent. Yesterday was the last day to buy shares and still get a year-end dividend in 15 percent of the companies included in the 785-member gauge.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.3 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid 0.6 percent. Markets in Australia and Hong Kong reopened today after a four-day weekend.
Exporters dropped after the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 U.S. cities dropped 3.4 percent in the year ended October after decreasing 3.5 percent in the year ended September, the New York-based group said yesterday.
Sony Corp., Japan’s No. 1 exporter of consumer electronics, dropped 2.4 percent, and Canon Inc., the world’s biggest camera maker, slid 1.6 percent to 3,415 yen.
SK Telecom led declines among firms that have the highest dividend yields among South Korea’s 50 largest publicly traded companies, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. SK Telecom retreated 6.3 percent to 141,500 won. Rival KT Corp. slipped 4.8 percent to 35,850 won. Korea Exchange Bank fell 5.1 percent to 7,450 won.
China Mengniu Dairy plunged 24 percent to HK$20.00, the biggest loss since September 2008. In a random inspection, the level of a toxin in a batch of the firm’s milk was more than double the nation’s permitted level, an unidentified official at the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said in an interview with the Xinhua News Agency.
Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.6 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 12.8 times for the S&P 500 and 10.5 times for the Stoxx 600. Utilities have lost 27 percent this year, the worst among the 10 industry groups on the Asian benchmark gauge, as Japanese power generators tumbled after a nuclear crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. fell to the lowest level in at least 37 years after Japan’s trade minister said the utility should consider temporary government control.
European stocks closed little changed after data on U.S. house prices and consumer confidence gave conflicting signals about the strength of the world’s largest economy. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 U.S. cities dropped 3.4 percent from October 2010 after decreasing 3.5 percent in the year ended September, the New York-based group said today. The median forecast of 27 economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a 3.2 percent decrease.
Confidence among U.S. consumers rose as an improving job market helped regain all the ground lost following the mid-year government budget battle and credit-rating downgrade. The Conference Board’s index increased to 64.5 this month, exceeding all estimates in a Bloomberg News survey, from a revised 55.2 reading in November, figures from the New York-based private research group showed. The measure averaged 53.7 during the recession that ended in June 2009
The volume of share trading across Europe was reduced today as U.K. and Irish markets remained closed for a second day following the Christmas holiday.
National benchmark indexes gained in 10 of the 16 western European markets trading today. France’s CAC 40 Index added 0.2 percent and Germany’s DAX advanced 0.4 percent. The Swiss Market Index fell 0.1 percent.
Banco Comercial Portugues rallied 6 percent to 12 euro cents and Banco Espirito Santo surged 10 percent to 1.29 euros. Portugal may recapitalize its banks without becoming a shareholder, Jornal de Negocios reported, without saying where it got the information.
Wacker Chemie AG and Symrise AG led chemical makers higher. The German companies added 1.2 percent to 61.56 euros and 2.3 percent to 20.26 euros, respectively.
UniCredit and Mediobanca lost 4.7 percent to 6.58 euros and 4.5 percent to 4.54 euros, respectively, in Milan trading. Intesa Sanpaolo SpA tumbled 3 percent to 1.27 euros.
Italy plans to sell almost 450 billion euros of debt next year to pay for maturing bonds and bills and cover the government’s budget deficit, Il Sole 24-Ore said, citing an interview with Maria Cannata, director of public debt.
Sky Deutschland AG declined 1.9 percent to 1.39 euros. The company won’t show Paramount Pictures Corp.’s movies in 2012, and the change will damp enthusiasm for its movie channel, according to Financial Times Deutschland. Paramount’s films include “Mission Impossible,” “TinTin” and “Titanic.”
U.S. stocks declined, halting a five-day advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as the European Central Bank’s balance sheet increased to a record after a surge of bank lending to stem the region’s debt crisis.
Equities slumped as the ECB’s balance sheet soared to a record 2.73 trillion euros ($3.55 trillion). The ECB last week awarded 523 banks three-year loans totaling a record 489 billion euros to encourage lending. So far, banks are parking the money back at the ECB. Overnight deposits at the central bank increased to an all-time high of 452 billion euros yesterday.
Earlier today, stock-futures rose as Italy sold 9 billion euros ($11.8 billion) of six-month Treasury bills and borrowing costs fell from the previous auction. A bigger test of the ECB’s lending on demand for European bonds comes tomorrow when Italy sells as much as 8.5 billion euros of longer-maturity debt.
The Morgan Stanley Cyclical Index sank 1.9 percent as Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) and Ford Motor Co. slid more than 2.3 percent.
Gauges of commodity shares had the biggest declines among 10 groups in the S&P 500, falling at least 1.8 percent. Metal prices sank as gold futures retreated for a fifth day, the longest slump since 2009. Oil declined for the first time in seven days, in part because of reduced concern that Iran will block the Strait of Hormuz.
Alcoa, the largest U.S. aluminum producer, retreated 3.1 percent to $8.52. Chevron fell 1.9 percent to $105.96. Freeport- McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., the world’s largest publicly traded copper miner, dropped 4.1 percent to $36.31.
The KBW Bank Index declined 1.8 percent as all of its 24 stocks fell. Bank of America lost 3.6 percent, the most in the Dow, to $5.29. Citigroup Inc. erased 2.9 percent to $26.13.
Molycorp Inc. slumped 14 percent, the biggest decline in the Russell 1000 Index, to $24.04. The price estimate for the owner of the largest rare-earth deposit outside China was cut to $39 a share from $57 by JPMorgan Chase & Co., which cited pressure on rare earth prices.
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