Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index set for its steepest two-day decline this year, as declining U.S. factory orders and slower growth in China crimped the earnings outlook for miners and machinery makers.
Nikkei 225 9,637.63 -60.96 -0.63%
Hang Seng 20,820.45 -444.86 -2.09%
S&P/ASX 200 4,204.73 -58.24 -1.37%
Shanghai Composite 2,410.45 -34.56 -1.41%
BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s top mining company, lost 2.3 percent as metal prices slid.
Fanuc Corp., which makes industrial robots, dropped 2.5 percent in Tokyo.
Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. declined 3.3 percent in Hong Kong after the South China Morning Post said Goldman Sachs Group Inc. may sell a ‘big chunk’ of the lender.
AIA Group Ltd. slumped 8.2 percent in Hong Kong after American International Group Inc. said it sold shares of the insurance company.
European stocks declined, with the Stoxx Europe 600 Index dropping the most since November, as a report confirmed a contraction in the euro-area economy and investors weighed Greece’s chances of getting bondholders to accept a debt swap.
The euro area’s fourth-quarter gross domestic product declined 0.3 percent from the third quarter, the European Union’s statistics office said today, confirming an initial estimate published on Feb. 15.
The 12 members of the creditors’ steering committee that said they would join in the exchange of Greek debt have debt with a face value of at least 40 billion euros, compared with the 206 billion euros of bonds in private hands.
The goal of the swap, which runs until March 8, is to reduce by 53.5 percent the total of privately held Greek sovereign debt, helping the country avert an uncontrolled default.
National benchmark indexes fell in all of the 18 western European market except Greece. The Mediterranean country’s ASE Index rose 2.8 percent. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 lost 1.9 percent. France’s CAC 40 dropped 3.6 percent and Germany’s DAX slid 3.4 percent.
A gauge of banks accounted for the largest decline on the Stoxx 600, losing 4.2 percent. Commerzbank AG lost 6.7 percent to 1.77 euros. Societe Generale SA declined 7.8 percent to 23 euros.
Cable & Wireless Worldwide dropped 6.7 percent to 31.21 pence. Vodafone Group Plc may not make an offer for the company by a March 12 deadline, the Telegraph reported, citing market speculation.
A gauge of mining-company shares slid 2.6 percent as metal prices fell in London. Nyrstar lost 4.6 percent to 6.39 euros. Eramet SA, a refined nickel producer, tumbled 6.6 percent to 106.60 euros. Kazakhmys Plc, Kazakhstan’s biggest copper producer, retreated 2.9 percent to 924 pence.
Michael Page International Plc, a recruitment services company, tumbled 7.5 percent to 443 pence. The stock was cut to “neutral” (MPI) from “buy” at Citigroup Inc.
Q-Cells SE , a solar-cell maker, plunged 12 percent to 24.9 euro cents, its lowest on record, after losses exceeded sales in the fourth quarter and the company forecast further losses in 2012. Q-Cells posted a loss of 393 million euros in the last three months of 2011 on sales of 353 million euros in a preliminary report today.
National Bank of Greece SA climbed 7.8 percent to 2.49 euros and Alpha Bank SA jumped 19 percent to 1.55 euros.
U.S. stocks slumped, giving the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index its biggest decline this year, as concern grew about the success of a Greece debt-swap deal and after a report showed that the European economy contracted.
Concern about a global slowdown increased a day after China cut its economic growth target. Data today showed that Europe’s economy shrank 0.3 percent last quarter and Brazil’s growth last year had its second-worst performance since 2003. The reports intensified bets that a rally that took the S&P 500 to an almost four year-high last week has outpaced economic prospects.
Dow 12,759.15 -203.66 -1.57%, Nasdaq 2,910.32 -40.16 -1.36%, S&P 500 1,343.36 -20.97 -1.54%
Twenty-nine out of the Dow’s 30 stocks retreated today, led by companies whose earnings are most-tied to economic growth. Alcoa (АА), the largest U.S. aluminum producer, dropped 4.1 percent to $9.47. Caterpillar (CAT), the world’s biggest maker of construction and mining-equipment, lost 3.8 percent to $105.93.
Financial companies had the biggest decline in the S&P 500 among 10 groups today, falling 2.5 percent. Bank of America (ВАС) retreated 3.3 percent to $7.71. Citigroup Inc. dropped 4.6 percent to $32.12. Morgan Stanley tumbled 5.3 percent to $17.32.
Merck & Co. fell 2.6 percent to $37.44. Earnings excluding one-time items will be 95 cents to 98 cents a share in the first quarter, Merck said. Based on an exchange rate of $1.31 per euro, revenue will take a 1 percent to 2 percent hit from currency, the company said today.
Nutrisystem Inc. tumbled 11 percent to $10.58. The provider of prepared meals to help clients lose weight forecast annual earnings per share of no more than 55 cents, falling short of the average analyst projection of 92 cents a share.
Monster Worldwide Inc. added 11 percent to $8.32. The online recruiting service hired Stone Key Partners LLC and Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch to help it review strategic alternatives.
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