Asian stocks fell on Monday, with
shares in Japan suffering their biggest fall in six weeks, as
investors feared rising inflation and sluggish U.S. economic
growth would seriously dent consumer demand in the region's
biggest export market.
Oil prices edged higher as the dollar eased, but trade in
Asia was subdued with the U.S. and UK financial markets closed
on Monday for national holidays.
Major stock indexes in Japan and China dropped more than 2
percent after U.S. markets last week chalked up their biggest
decline in three months as oil prices rocketed to record highs,
heightening concern about consumer demand and company earnings.
"The market is going to start thinking about real
economies. China has held up somewhat but margins are getting
squeezed by higher oil and higher materials prices," said Garry
Evans, pan-Asian equity strategist with HSBC in Hong Kong.
By 0600 GMT, Japan's Nikkei share average (.N225) posted
its largest single-day decline in six weeks, down 2.3 percent,
led lower by exporters such as Canon Inc (7751.T) and clothing
firm Fast Retailing Co Ltd (9983.T).
The MSCI index of Asian stocks outside Japan
(.MIAPJ0000PUS) fell 1.4 percent.
China Mobile (0941.HK) stock tumbled 7.5 percent, helping
to knock down Hong Kong's Hang Seng index (.HSI) after Goldman
Sachs downgraded shares of the world's largest wireless carrier
to "sell" following a sector-wide restructuring plan announced
last week which will increase competition.
South Korea's KOSPI (.KS11) slid 1.5 percent to its lowest
since April 24. Shares of Samsung Electronics Co Ltd
(005930.KS), the world's second-largest mobile phone maker,
were the biggest drag on the index, tumbling 4 percent, on talk
that Nokia (NOK1V.HE) may cut prices and re-enter the South
Investors are also awaiting inflation data from both the
euro zone and United States later in the week.
A persistent rise in commodity prices, led by oil's 38
percent climb so far this year, has spooked investors and
brought an abrupt end to a rally in global stock markets that
began in mid-March when the U.S. Federal Reserve backed a deal
to bail out ailing investment bank Bear Stearns & Co Inc
Still, the overarching trend since March has been a
cautious shift from bonds to stocks despite higher volatility
in both equity and fixed income markets.
Emerging market equity funds have received $16.7 billion in
fresh investment since the beginning of April, recouping all
but $3.3 billion of the losses incurred during the first three
months of the year, according to data from EPFR Global, a firm
that tracks global capital flows.
Meanwhile, investors have pulled money out of global bond
funds for 15 consecutive weeks, racking up outflows of $10.5
billion so far this year.
BEAR MARKET IN BONDS
Inflation fears caused a stampede out of U.S. Treasuries
last week, pushing up the yield on the benchmark 10-year note
by 11 basis points. The sell-off quickly spread to Asia as
Japanese government bond futures on Monday edged up from
nine-month lows plumbed last week, but gains were tempered by
many market players, especially large banks, looking to cut
"Market sentiment is pretty bad," said Kenro Kawano, senior
interest-rate strategist at Credit Suisse in Tokyo. "At least
at the moment, it's a bear market."
Kawano said the surge in oil prices would ultimately hurt
the Japanese economy. If so, that should cool some of the
expectations for the Bank of Japan to raise interest rates in
the coming year, which have weighed on the bond market.
June 10-year futures edged up 0.13 point to 134.48, up
slightly from the nine-month trough of 133.93 struck on Friday.
The benchmark 10-year yield, which moves inversely to the
price, was steady at 1.74 percent, off the nine-month peak of
1.755 percent reached on Friday.
Oil rose towards $133 a barrel on Monday, extending the
previous session's gains on a supply outage at the Statfjord
oilfield in the North Sea and the weak U.S. dollar.
U.S. light crude for July delivery rose 54 cents to $132.73
a barrel, extending Friday's gains of $1.38. It struck a record
high of $135.09 in intraday trade last week.
Gold prices have crept higher in May, reflecting investors'
unease about inflation. Spot gold on Monday was up 0.3 percent
at $927.10 an ounce.
The ailing dollar eased 0.1 percent to 71.888 against a
basket of major currencies, hovering near one-month lows.
The euro rose to $1.5790, up 0.2 percent from Friday. It
hit all-time highs above $1.60 last month.
The dollar slid 0.2 percent against the Japanese currency
to 103.15 yen as a fall in Tokyo stocks prompted investors to
unwind risky carry trades. In carry trades, low-yielding
currencies such as the yen are used to finance purchases of
assets offering higher returns elsewhere.
"The dollar continues to stay on a downward trend with many
players just looking for a chance to sell it," said Tsutomu
Soma, senior manager of foreign assets at Okasan Securities in
(Additional reporting by Eric Burroughs in Tokyo; Editing
by Louise Heavens)