Weekly Roundup: Asian Markets Fall Amid Europe Concerns

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A man looks at an electronic board displaying a fall in major market indices around the world outside a brokerage in Tokyo
A man looks at an electronic board displaying a fall in major market indices around the world outside a brokerage in Tokyo Dec. 9, 2011.

Most of the Asian markets fell in the week as investor sentiment turned negative amid the discouraging political developments in Europe which raised worries about the debt crisis looming over the euro zone.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index declined 2.1 percent and closed at 23215.16. China’s Shanghai Composite rose 0.6 percent and closed at 2432.40 points.

Investors were worried to note that Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his party were facing corruption allegations. Subsequently the debt burden faced by Spain rose with its 10-year government yields climbing 23 bps to 5.44 percent.

Italy was also faced with political uncertainty as former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s popularity increased prior to the general election to be held in the country this month. The debt burden faced by Italy rose with its 10-year government yields climbing 14 bps to 4.47 percent.

China's service activity expanded in January at a faster pace than that in the previous month, according to the HSBC Services Purchasing Managers’ Index released Tuesday. The Services PMI, a measure of nationwide service activity, was 54 in January, up from 51.7 in December and still in positive territory.

China’s trade surplus dropped in January compared with that in the previous month but was better than expected. According to the data released Friday by the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country’s trade balance, which measures the difference in value between imported and exported goods and services over the reported period, was $29.2 billion in January from $31.60 billion in December. But that was better than the analysts’ expectation of $22 billion. China’s exports rose 17.3 percent in January, from a 14.1 percent increase in December.

Meanwhile, China’s inflation rate slowed down in January compared with that in the same period the previous year, increasing the prospects for further loosening of the country's monetary policy. The data from the National Bureau of Statistics released Friday showed that the consumer price index of China rose 2 percent in January compared with that in the same period in the previous year, down from 2.5 percent in December.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.3 percent this week and closed at 11153.16. South Korea's Kospi Index was down 0.4 percent and closed at 1950.90.

Japan's monetary base rose in January compared to that in the same month last year, indicating that the monetary easing policies were leading to an increase in the amount of currency in circulation, which, in turn, resulted in reviving economic growth. According to the data released Monday by the Bank of Japan, the country’s monetary base, which measures the change in the total amount of domestic currency in circulation and current account deposits held at the central bank, advanced 10.9 percent in January from an 11.8 percent rise in December.

Japan’s core machinery orders posted a better-than-expected rise in December compared with those in the earlier month, indicating that manufacturing production in the country is improving. According to the data released by the Cabinet Office Thursday, Japan’s core machinery orders, which measure the change in the total value of new orders placed with machine manufacturers, excluding ships and utilities, increased by 2.8 percent in December following a 3.9 percent gain in November. December's gain was significantly better than the analysts’ estimate of a 0.7 percent decrease.

India's BSE Sensex was down 1.5 percent in the week and closed at 19484.77.

Investor confidence was weighed as the government released a statement Thursday that India’s gross domestic product was estimated to grow at an annual rate of 5 percent in the 2012/13 fiscal year.  Earlier, the finance ministry had projected the economy to grow at 5.7 to 5.9 percent during the year. Market players felt that the downturn in industrial production and weak export orders would continue to hamper India’s economic growth.

Meanwhile, India's service sector continued to expand in January, according to the HSBC Services PMI released Tuesday. The Services PMI data rose to 57.5 in January from 55.6 in the previous month.

Major Losers: Shares of Nikon Corp (JP: 7731) fell 19 percent. Shares of Soho China Ltd (HK: 410) dropped 9.3 percent. Shares of Esprit Holdings Ltd (HK: 0330) declined 2.1 percent.

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