Asian stock markets lower as weakness in Chinese trade persists

SEOUL, South Korea – Asian stock markets were lower Tuesday as China’s trade data showed a larger-than-expected slide in imports, deepening concerns about slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy.

KEEPING SCORE: Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.1 per cent to 18,234.74 and South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.1 per cent to 2,019.05. China’s Shanghai composite index fell 0.1 per cent to 3,285.01 while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.4 per cent to 22,638.05. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.6 per cent to 5,202.90. Stocks in Southeast Asia were also lower.

CHINA SLOWDOWN: China’s September imports fell by an unexpectedly wide margin of 20.4 per cent from a year ago in a new sign of weakness in the world’s second-largest economy, while exports also contracted even though the decline in exports was smaller than predicted. Customs data Tuesday showed Chinese purchases of foreign goods worsened from August’s 5.5 per cent decline, evidence of anemic demand despite repeated stimulus efforts aimed at reversing a decline in economic growth. Sales of Chinese goods to foreign markets fell 3.7 per cent, an improvement from the previous month’s 13.8 per cent contraction.

ANALYST’S TAKE: “Markets and currencies started to weaken from the open as nervousness about the Chinese trade data was heavy in the air,” said Angus Nicholson, a market analyst at IG. “It was basically a fairly mixed report, but with last week’s impressive rally starting to look stretched, mixed Chinese data was taken as bad Chinese data.”

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks edged higher Monday ahead of a busy week for corporate earnings. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.1 per cent to 2,017.46. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.3 per cent to 17,131.86. The Nasdaq composite climbed 0.2 per cent to 4,838.64.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude added 48 cents to $47.58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the contract dropped $2.53 to close at $47.10 a barrel after a report showed that OPEC members are keeping up production even after a big drop in prices. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 54 cents to $50.78 per barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro strengthened to $ $1.138 from $1.136, while the dollar weakened to 119.83 yen from 120.04 yen.