Asia stocks mixed ahead of US data, Australian banks suffer

Asia stocks mixed ahead of US data, Australian banks suffer
PHOTO: Reuters

HONG KONG - Asian stocks were mixed with investors awaiting the release of US jobs data later Friday for clues on the timing of an expected Fed interest rate rise, while banking shares weighed on Australian markets.

Share markets got a negative lead from Wall Street, where a major sell-off in media equities following disappointing earnings reports from Viacom and 21st Century Fox pushed US stocks lower Thursday.

Tokyo was down 0.28 percent by the break, while Sydney fell 1.79 percent and Seoul was down 0.16 percent.

Hong Kong and China shares rebounded after the previous day's losses, with the Hang Seng Index up 0.85 percent and Shanghai climbing 1.91 percent in morning trade.

Investors in Japan were awaiting a central bank monetary policy decision, while more than 250 firms on the Topix index report earnings on Friday.

"At the moment, moves are centred around stock picking and shifting sectors," Hitoshi Asaoka, Tokyo-based senior strategist at Mizuho Trust & Banking Co., told Bloomberg News.

"Falls in the US and European markets will be a weight on Japanese stocks," he added.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.69 percent to 17,419.75, as weak media results exacerbated worries that increased viewing on smartphones and other gadgets will hammer the cable television business.

Viacom plunged 13.4 percent as third-quarter revenues dropped 10.6 percent, while Fox fell 6.4 percent after reporting that earnings for the quarter ending June 30 sank 91 percent.

In Sydney, major Australian lenders slid as capital raising from ANZ bank in particular missed expectations while its profits fell short of analysts' estimates.

ANZ bank was down 7.09 percent, Westpac fell 2.92 percent, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia shed 2.32 percent and National Australia bank dropped 2.05 percent.

ANZ fell as much as 8.5 percent in morning trade, the sharpest drop since November 2008.

"The feeling among investors is the capital raise isn't enough," T.S. Lim, a Sydney-based analyst at Bell Potter Securities, told Bloomberg News.

ANZ sold Aus$3 billion ($2.2 billion) worth of shares on Thursday following moves by regulators to make Australian banks safer.

Australia's banking regulator last month raised the average capital that the country's four main lenders need to hold against potential home-loan losses.

- Gold loses its sheen -

Shanghai rebounded on reports a government agency ordered to buy stocks to stem a market rout was seeking an additional two trillion yuan ($322 billion).

China will announce July trade and inflation figures this weekend.

After the Shanghai market peaked in mid-June and then fell 30 percent in three weeks, the government intervened with a rescue package which includes a crackdown on short-selling, banning major investors in listed companies from selling stock for six months and funding a state-backed company to buy shares.

US investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates the government has spent as much as 900 billion yuan ($147 billion) in the past two months to prop up stock prices, Bloomberg News reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile gold's weekly decline marked its worst run in 11 years, before US jobs data released Friday that will provide the Federal Reserve with guidance as to whether an interest rate hike is timely.

Higher interest rates limit bullion's appeal.

The metal fetched $1,088.96 an ounce compared with $1,085.75 late Thursday.

In Tokyo forex trade, the dollar fetched 124.80 yen early Friday against 124.73 yen in New York late Thursday.

The euro was changing hands at $1.0917 and 136.23 yen from $1.0923 and 136.25 yen.

Oil prices were slightly higher.

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for September delivery rose 14 cents to $44.80 compared with $44.66 a barrel in New York trade while Brent crude for September gained 18 cents to $49.70 against $49.52.

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