Jan. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Most Asian stocks fell, with a regional benchmark index snapping three days of gains, as weaker Japan trade data added to evidence of a global slowdown, damping speculation slower inflation in China may result in looser monetary policy.
Sony Corp., Japan’s biggest exporter of consumer electronics, fell 2.3 percent as the nation’s current-account surplus shrank. Infosys Ltd., India’s second-largest software exporter, tumbled after cutting its sales forecast. QBE Insurance Group Ltd. plunged 13 percent in Sydney after saying 2011 profit dropped as much as 50 percent. China Communications Construction Co., a builder of transport infrastructure, gained 1.6 percent in Hong Kong.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 0.1 percent to 116.14 as of 7:57 p.m. in Tokyo, with five shares falling for every four that rose. The gauge advanced 1.7 percent in the past three days amid bets that China will ease monetary policy. The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index gained 0.3 percent, erasing losses of as much as 0.2 percent.
“If inflation keeps coming down, it increases the likelihood that China will deem it appropriate to continue to ease monetary policy,” said Will Seddon, who helps oversee $300 million at White Funds Management in Sydney. “The market has largely digested the possibility of a recession in Europe.”
China’s Shanghai Composite Index dropped less than 0.1 percent after swinging between gains of 0.8 percent and losses of as much as 0.5 percent as the nation’s inflation cooled for a fifth straight month in December. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.3 percent, having swung between gains and losses at least seven times.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slipped 0.7 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.2 percent, with QBE Insurance as the main drag, according data compiled by Bloomberg.
South Korea’s Kospi Index advanced 1 percent and the BSE India Sensitive Index dropped 0.9 percent as Infosys declined.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index climbed 0.5 percent today after falling as much as 0.2 percent. The gauge was little changed in New York yesterday. The U.S. economic expansion improved last month across most of the country, while hiring was limited and housing remained stagnant, the Federal Reserve said in its Beige Book business survey.
Japanese exporters slid as the nation’s current-account surplus shrank 86 percent from a year earlier as slowing growth in China and Europe and the appreciation of the yen damped demand for Japanese products.
Sony, the maker of Bravia televisions and PlayStation game consoles, dropped 2.3 percent to 1,319 yen. Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s biggest carmaker by market value, declined 1.2 percent to 2,595 yen. Panasonic Corp., a maker of home appliances, slid 2.5 percent to 628 yen.
Infosys sank 8.4 percent to 2,588.25 rupees, the biggest drag on the Asia-Pacific gauge. The company reduced its full- year forecast for sales in dollar terms, citing weaker demand in developed economies including Europe.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index gained 2.1 percent this year through yesterday, compared with a 2.8 percent advance by the S&P 500 and a 2.2 percent increase by the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. Stocks in the Asian benchmark are valued at 12.2 times estimated earnings on average, compared with 12.3 times for the S&P 500 and 10 times for the Stoxx 600.
QBE Insurance tumbled 13 percent to A$11.35 in Sydney, the biggest decline on the regional benchmark index. The company said 2011 profit fell as much as 50 percent on record natural disaster claims and losses on bond investments.
“There won’t be too many brave investors stepping in to catch this falling knife,” Peter Esho, Sydney-based chief market analyst at City Index Ltd., a London-based provider of trading services in bonds, stocks and commodities, said in a note. “The number of catastrophes in such a short period of time have finally caught up to hurt the group’s bottom line.”
Chinese construction companies and machinery makers advanced after China’s inflation cooled to a 15-month low and producer-price gains were the smallest in two years in December, leaving the government more room to support growth as a global slowdown hurts exports.
China Communications Construction increased 1.6 percent to HK$6.81. Zoomlion Heavy Industry & Technology Ltd., a maker of construction machinery, added 0.7 percent to HK$9.50.
Solar energy producers surged after the China said it plans to start developing 3 gigawatt of solar power capacity in the five years through 2015.
GCL-Poly Energy Holdings Ltd., a Chinese producer of polysilicon used in solar panels, jumped 14 percent to HK$2.49. Trony Solar Holdings Co Ltd., a panel maker, climbed 6.5 percent to HK$1.15.
OCI Co., a South Korean supplier of polysilicon, surged 15 percent to 255,000 won in Seoul, the most on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index. Unit OCI Solar Power said it plans to build 400 megawatts of solar energy projects for CPS Energy in Texas.
--Editors: Nick Gentle, Jim Powell
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