Asia stocks fell in choppy trade Thursday, as investors looked ahead to European Central Bank and Bank of England meetings expected to unveil more easing.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index AU:XJO -0.26% and South Korea’s Kospi KR:SEU -0.07% lost 0.2% each, while Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average JP:100000018 -0.26% slipped 0.1%.
In China, the Shanghai Composite CN:000001 -1.19% led regional losses with a 1% drop, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HK:HSI -0.33% gave up 0.3%.
Asia markets took their lead from a weaker European session, with U.S. markets closed for a the July Fourth holiday. Read more on the European session.
On the macroeconomic front, focus was on Europe’s central bank meetings later in the day, with the ECB widely expected to lower its benchmark policy lending rate amid slackening growth across the region, and could alter deposit rates as well. Read MarketWatch’s ECB preview.
“With the euro zone’s debt crisis intensifying again and the economic downturn broadening, we agree with the consensus view that the ECB will cut interest rates by 25 basis points,” Capital Economics strategist Ben May said.
“But the bank seems unlikely to announce more long-term lending, believing that the financial system as a whole has enough liquidity,” May said.
In Hong Kong, losses for financial firms weighed, as Bank of China Ltd. HK:3988 -1.36% BACHY +0.42% dropped 1.4% and Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. HK:1288 -0.63% ACGBF -4.26% eased 1.3%.
Resource firms also came under selling pressure. China Coal Energy Co. HK:1898 -0.58% CCOZY +3.29% lost 1.7% after recent strong gains, and Jiangxi Copper Co. HK:358 -1.89% JIXAY +1.85% traded 1.3% weaker.
Energy shares sold across Asia down after oil futures pulled back from a recent rally.
Tokyo, Inpex Corp. JP:1605 -1.84% IPXHY +1.50% dropped 1% and JX Holdings Inc. JP:5020 -0.98% JXHGF -17.17% eased 0.5%, while Oil Search Ltd. AU:OSH -1.92% OISHY +1.33% fell 1.8% in Sydney.
Also in Sydney, BlueScope Steel Ltd. AU:BSL -4.00% BLSFY -3.95% sank 3.1% after the firm said it had will pay a $21.2 million Australian dollar ($21.8 million) charge to the Australian Tax Office, pending the outcome of a dispute. Read more on BlueScope tax payment.
Aquila Resources Ltd. AU:AQA +4.10% AU:AQA +4.10% shot up 3.4% after the Nikkei reported Japanese trading company Sumitomo Corp. JP:8053 -0.79% would acquire a 50% interest in an Australian coal mine from Aquila for A$442 million. Shares of Sumitomo eased 0.3%.
Still, strength for some major Japanese exporters capped broader losses.
Mazda Motor Corp. JP:7261 +0.95% MZDAY +2.80% jumped 1.9%, Mitsubishi Motor Corp. JP:7211 0.00% added 1.3% and Sony Corp. JP:6758 +0.55% SNE +0.49% gained 1.3% in Tokyo.
Exporters fared worse in Seoul, as Samsung Electronics Co. SSNGY 0.00% dropped 0.7% and LG Electronics Inc. LGEIY 0.00% shed 0.6%.
Shares of Hyundai Motor Co. lost 1.7%, and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. lost 0.8% as their labor unions moved closer to a strike. -By Virginia Harrison