Asian stock markets fell Monday, with resource and technology shares losing ground after China issued a lower economic growth forecast for this year and as geopolitical tensions prompted investor caution.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HK:HIS) -1.38% lost 1.4% to 21,265.31, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average (JP:NIK) -0.80% dropped 0.8% to 9,698.59 and China’s Shanghai Composite (CN:000001) -0.64% fell 0.6% to 2,445.
Elsewhere, Taiwan’s Taiex (XX:Y9999) -1.71% gave up 1.4% to 8,004.74, South Korea’s Kospi (KR:0100) -0.91% declined 0.9% to 2,016.06 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index (AU:XJO) -0.24% edged down 0.2% to 4,263.
“Momentum has come off a little on concerns about the Middle East,” said Tom Kaan, director of equity sales at Louis Capital Markets in Hong Kong.
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Sunday he hasn’t ruled out any options in dealing with Iran, saying his policy is to stop the Middle-East oil exporter from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
At China’s annual Parliamentary session, or the National People’s Congress in Beijing, meanwhile, Premier Wen Jiabao lowered the nation’s country’s growth target for 2012 to 7.5% from the 8% expansion aimed in recent years. The annual inflation target was set at 4%.
“In view of Europe’s problems … demand for Chinese goods has been on the slide, which is why Premier Wen Jiabao is managing expectations and has always postured about growth in domestic demand,” said Louis Capital Markets’ Kaan.
The new growth forecasts, although in line with expectations, led to profit-taking in some exporters relying on Chinese and overseas demand.
In Tokyo, end-of-the-week losses for Nasdaq (COMP) -0.43% and a firm Japanese yen (EURJPY) -0.62% also weighed on some technology majors.
Sony Corp. (JP:6758)-3.32% (SNE) +0.25% dropped 3.3%, Panasonic Corp. (JP:6752) -2.16% (PC ) +0.19% lost 2.2%, and Advantest Corp. (JP:6857) -3.03% (ADTTF) +6.54% dropped 3.1%.
Shares of Tokyo Electron Ltd. JP:8035 -3.53% TOELF +2.28% gave up 3.5% after the tech major said ahead of the market open that it would buy the solar business of Switzerland’s Oerlikon Group.
Among other movers, Mitsubishi Motors Corp. (JP:7211) -1.04% (MMTOF) 0.00% gave up 1% amid reports the car maker will cut production of mini-vehicles at its main domestic plant after sales failed to meet expectations.
In Seoul, shares of Samsung Electronics Co. (SSNLF) +6.39% dropped 0.7% and LG Display Co. (LPL) -0.45% fell 3.4%.
The decline in Asian equities also tracked a drop for U.S. stocks Friday, and as Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) -0.02% fell 31 points in electronic trading.
Several resource sector shares declined, with Jiangxi Copper Co. (HK:358) -4.05% (JIXAY) -1.58% losing 4.1% and Angang Steel Co. (HK:347) -3.99% (ANGGY) -1.68% falling 4% in Hong Kong; on mainland bourses, they fell 0.1 and 1.2%, respectively.
Energy stocks were hit by Friday’s fall in crude-oil prices, with Tokyo-listed Inpex Corp.(JP:1605) -2.09% (IPXHY) -1.25% retreating 2.1% and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WOPEY) -2.40% (AU:WPL) -0.74% shedding 0.7% in Sydney, while PetroChina Co. (PTR) -1.29% (CN:601857) -1.13% lost 1.1% in Shanghai and 2.7% in Hong Kong.
In Sydney, mining giants BHP Billiton Ltd. (AU:BHP) -0.84% (BHP) -0.10% and Rio Tinto Ltd.(AU:RIO) -1.27% (RIO) -0.32% dropped 0.8% and 1.3%, respectively.
In Hong Kong, shares of insurance major AIA Group Ltd. (AAGIY) -1.05% (HK:1299) +0.17%were placed on a trading suspension Monday, pending an announcement of a potential stake sale by American International Group Inc. (AIG) -0.12% . AIG plans to raise about $6 billion by selling down its stake in AIA, according to media reports.