Japan Stocks Rise, But China Sinks

Big 5

Asia markets offered a split decision Thursday in cautious trading ahead of the highly anticipated European Central Bank decision, with Chinese markets lower but Japan getting a boost from some sales and earnings results.

The Shanghai Composite Index 000001 fell 0.8%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI and South Korea’s Kospi SEU each dropped 0.7%.

On the other hand, Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average 100000018 rose 0.3%, and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index XJO added 0.4%.

The mixed performance in Asia followed a drop for U.S. stocks on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve failed to unleash any new measures to stimulate the economy, despite acknowledging conditions had deteriorated. Read more on the U.S. session.

In a statement following a two-day policy meeting, the Fed said U.S. economic activity had “decelerated,” and that it was prepared to act should the situation worsen. Read more on the Fed.

Investors were also bracing for the ECB policy meeting later Thursday, amid elevated hopes of policy action to support the fragile euro-zone economy. Read preview of ECB meeting.

Tom Kaan, director of equity sales at Louis Capital Markets in Hong Kong, linked mild selling across Asia to fears the ECB decision may disappoint.

“The risk is that they don’t do anything, or what they offer is minimal. It hinges on [ECB President Mario] Draghi’s success to push euro bonds,” Kaan said.

“The market is beginning to discount that ‘Super Mario’ will be able to do something,” he said. “The problem is the kryptonite is still in [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel’s hands and … there is still no consensus toward creating euro bonds, or a massive selling of bonds to support the peripherals.”

Chinese property-developer shares also traded sharply lower, after data a day earlier showing a rise in housing prices sparked concerns about future government curbs for the sector. Read more on China property shares.

Poly Real Estate Group Co. Ltd. 600048 lost 5.6% and Gemdale Corp. 600383 fell 6.7% in Shanghai, while sector leader China Vanke Co. CVKEY fell 3.4% in Shenzhen.

Financials were weak in Hong Kong, as China Life Insurance Co.LFC 2628 sank 1.9% and Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. 1398 traded down 1.6%. In Shanghai, Haitong Securities Co. 600837 lost 1.3%.

Losses for major exporters weighed in Seoul, where Samsung Electronics Co. SSNGY tumbled 2.6% and LG Display Co. LPL shed 1.2%.

Earnings, sales help support Tokyo

Still, some upbeat sales and earnings supported the wider Japanese market.

Shares of Toyota Motor Corp. 7203 TM surged 1.8% as strong U.S. sales results out overnight outweighed news of a massive new recall of 778,000 vehicles. Read more on Toyota recall.

A 16% rise in Nissan Motor Co.’s 7201 NSANY July U.S. sales help send the stock up 2.9%. Read more on U.S. July car sales.

Many other Japanese auto makers also gained ground, as Mitsubishi Motors Corp. 7211 rose 1.4%, and Mazda Motor Corp.7261  MZDAY climbed 2.2%.

In earnings news, Kyocera Corp. 6971KYOCF rallied 6.1% following its quarterly results showing a sharp profit drop that nonetheless met expectations.

Shares of Mitsui Fudosan Co. 8801 MTSFF added 1.5% after the real-estate firm posted a jump in first-quarter net profit.

Sony Corp. 6758SNE and Sharp Corp. 6753 SHCAF — both of which were due to post their earnings after the market close — rose 2.7% and 0.4%, respectively.

Gains for energy firms led the advance in Sydney, with Woodside Petroleum Ltd. WPL WOPEY up 2.1% and Origin Energy Ltd. ORG rising 1.7%, as crude-oil futures improved in New York trading overnight. Read more on oil futures.

Shares of Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd. CMJ added 0.3% after Australian regulators cleared the way for a takeover by News Corp. NWS NWS NWSA News Corp. stock also rose 0.3%.

News Corp. is the owner of MarketWatch, the publisher of this report.

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