Asian stock markets declined for the first time in five days Friday as weaker-than-expected Chinese trade data stoked fears of a growth slowdown in the world's second largest economy.
Japanese benchmark Nikkei fell 0.97 percent or 87.16 points to 8,891.44, Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 0.61 percent or 123.14 points to 20,146.33 and Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.24 percent or 5.29 points to 2,168.81 while South Korean KOSPI Composite gained 0.30 percent and Indian benchmark BSE Sensex slipped 0.41 percent.
China's trade surplus narrowed to $25.1 billion in July compared to $31.5 billion in the same period last year amid slower-than-expected growth in exports and imports. Exports rose just 1 percent in July from a year earlier, down from 11.3 percent increase in June and also widely missed analysts' estimate of 8.6 percent, indicating that global economic condition is continuing to affect the country's exports.
Imports grew 4.7 percent on annual basis in July, down from 6.3 percent in June and also fell short of economists' estimate of 7.2 percent, raising concern that the world's largest emerging economy wasn't doing enough to stimulate domestic demand and avert a slowdown. The latest numbers followed softer Chinese CPI inflation data Thursday, which declined to a 30-month low, rising hopes that Beijing would now have more room for policy easing to stem a growth slowdown.
"The big miss with the trade data today could mean China is in bigger trouble than most people think, and the uncertainty might hurt interest in stocks even more," Larry Jiang, chief investment strategist at Guotai Junan International Securities, told Reuters.
However, the downward move was limited as better-than-expected economic data from the U.S. and renewed hopes of policy action from the European Central Bank (ECB) offered support. ECB governing council member Christian Noyer said Thursday that the central bank was determined to bring down borrowing costs in Spain and Italy and should be ready to intervene decisively in bond markets very soon.
Japanese shares ended lower as weaker-than-expected earnings reports and Chinese trade data weighed on the sentiment. Trend Micro Inc. slumped 9.09 percent and Olympus Corp. fell 1.53 percent as quarterly earnings reports from both companies fell short of expectations.
Among other stocks, Advantest Corp. slipped 1.20 percent and Canon Inc. declined 2.35 percent while JX Holdings Inc gained 2.20 percent.
In Hong Kong, China Yurun Food Group slumped 6.58 percent and China Datang Corp. fell 4.71 percent while Li & Fung Ltd. tumbled 21.15 percent after announcing that the half-year core operating profit fell 22 percent and warned that its euro operations remained weak.
Seoul shares ended on a positive note, led by gains from blue chip companies. Hyundai Motor Co. gained 1.23 percent and POSCO advanced 1.05 percent while LG Display Co, Ltd. surged 2.97 percent.