BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets fell Thursday as some investors cashed in their chips following recent rallies, putting aside a Federal Reserve survey that found the U.S. economy improved in 2012 and better-than-expected Wall Street earnings.
The report, known as the Beige Book, reports on the economic conditions of the Fed’s regional banking districts. The Fed said Wednesday that 12 of its districts reported “modest or moderate” growth in the final weeks of 2012. The report helped Asian markets open higher but wasn’t enough to sustain the momentum.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index reversed course and headed lower after the yen came off its recent lows of 89 or more against the dollar. The benchmark was down 1.3 percent by afternoon to 10,461.74.
South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.6 percent to 1,965.88. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng also changed direction after posting morning gains, slipping 0.4 percent to 23,271.24. Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 1.1 percent to 2,283.95.
“I think the market has gotten ahead of itself. The Shanghai index gained more than 10 percent in the past month and now we have profit-taking,” said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings in Hong Kong.
Investors were keen to lock in their gains on real estate stocks, which rose Wednesday after a speech by the territory’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, on the Asian financial hub’s housing crisis. The speech was viewed as offering little to combat the overheated property market in the short term.
“According to his plan, the supply of flats will not increase significantly until 2018,” Lun said. “So in the meantime, developers will enjoy enormous, obscene profits for five years.”
Hong Kong-listed Evergrande Real Estate, which rose 2 percent on Wednesday, tumbled 6.7 percent in a sell-off. China Resources Land fell 3.1 percent.
Energy stocks helped push Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 up 0.5 percent to a 19-month high of 4,760.90. Woodside Petroleum rose 0.3 percent after saying production and revenue had risen by about 30 percent in 2012. Oil and gas company Santos Ltd., which said it expects to meet its 2013 production forecasts, rose 1 percent.
Analysts took note of the mild inflation rate in the U.S., which makes it easier for the Fed to continue with its efforts to accelerate the economy. If the Fed were worried that prices are rising too fast, it might have to raise interest rates. Consumer prices rose only 1.7 percent in 2012, down from 3 percent in 2011, the government reported Wednesday.
The numbers were in line with the Fed’s forecasts that inflation would remain a little below target, leaving it free to focus on the other half of its dual mandate to reduce unemployment through monetary stimulus, said Paul Ashworth at Capital Economics in a market commentary.
The Fed also said U.S. factory production rose in December for the second straight month, buoyed by more output of autos, electronics and business equipment.
On the corporate front, net income from JPMorgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, soared 55 percent from a year earlier while Goldman Sachs’ earnings nearly tripled. EBay Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings also topped analyst projections as bargain-hunting holiday shoppers flocked to its Internet shopping mall and digital payment service.
But problems for Boeing’s 787 new “Dreamliner” overshadowed buoyant earnings reports, sending the aircraft maker’s stock down sharply and taking the Dow with it. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.2 percent to close at 13,511.23. The Standard & Poor’s 500 rose less than 0.1 percent to 1,472.63. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.2 percent to 3,117.54.
Benchmark oil for February delivery was down 41 cents to $93.83 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 96 cents to close at $94.24 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In currencies, the euro fell to $1.3280 from $1.3286 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 88.25 yen from 88.49 yen.
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Official Wire and AP
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