Asian Stocks Fall From Six-Year High, Paring Sixth Weekly Gain

Jun 20, 2014 4:33 am ET

June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Asian stocks fell from a six-year high as materials and technology companies led the regional benchmark index lower.

BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s biggest mining company, slid 1.3 percent in Sydney. Samsung Electronics Co. paced declines among technology firms as South Korea’s Kospi index posted its biggest drop in two months. Samsung Life Insurance Co. lost 3.4 percent as an investor sold five million shares. HTC Corp. climbed 2.3 percent in Taipei after Chief Executive Officer Peter Chou told shareholders he is seeing improvement from the second quarter.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.3 percent to 144.93 as of 4:03 p.m. in Hong Kong. The gauge is on course to advance 0.6 percent this week, the longest run of weekly gains since August, after Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said she expects U.S. interest rates to stay near zero for a “considerable time” after stimulatory bond buying ends.

“Investors need to be asking whether the Fed and Yellen will prove to be as stubbornly dovish on monetary policy as much of the commentary now assumes,” said Ric Spooner, chief strategist at CMC Markets Ltd. in Sydney. “Market thinking on this may be tested if U.S. economic growth and inflation rates continue to improve in coming months. With little on the slate in terms of economic releases, today may be a typically quiet session for markets.”

Regional Gauges

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index lost 0.9 percent, with BHP Billiton declining 1.3 percent to A$35.95. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index slid 0.9 percent. South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.2 percent as Samsung Electronics retreated 1.7 percent to 1.3 million won. Japan’s Topix index closed little changed.

The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.2 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.1 percent. Taiwan’s Taiex Index fell 0.5 percent, with losses limited as HTC rose 2.3 percent to NT$136. Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 0.1 percent. India’s BSE S&P Sensex Index advanced 0.1 percent.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index yesterday closed at its highest since June 2008. The gauge traded at 13.4 times estimated earnings at the last close, compared with 16.6 for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and 15.6 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Futures on the S&P 500 dropped less than 0.1 percent today after the equity index climbed yesterday to a record. Reports yesterday showed initial claims for unemployment benefits in the U.S. dropped by 6,000 people to 312,000 in the week to June 14, while a Bloomberg gauge of the U.S. outlook showed Americans are the most optimistic about the economy’s prospects in a year.

Samsung Life

Samsung Life lost 3.4 percent to 101,000 won. The company’s Public Welfare Foundation sold about five million shares at 100,320 won each, according to terms of the transaction obtained by Bloomberg News.

Gold producers advanced as bullion headed for its longest run of weekly advances since March. Zijin Mining Group Co., China’s biggest gold producer, climbed 2.9 percent to HK$1.75 in Hong Kong. Newcrest Mining Ltd. gained 4 percent to A$10.81 in Sydney.

Isuzu Motors Ltd. climbed 3.6 percent to 695 yen in Tokyo after JPMorgan Chase & Co. recommended the truckmaker’s shares in new coverage, citing stable demand in Japan as earthquake reconstruction gets into full swing.