Asian stock markets declined Friday as weak economic reports from Japan and South Korea revived concerns over the global economic growth while investors opted for caution ahead of the long-awaited speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke at the Jackson Hole symposium later in the day.
Japanese benchmark Nikkei plunged 1.60 percent or 143.87 points to 8,839.91, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.36 percent or 70.34 points to 19482.57 and Chinese Shanghai Composite fell 0.25 percent or 5.06 points to 2,047.52 while India's BSE Sensex declined 0.68 percent and South Korean KOSPI Composite slipped 0.07 percent.
Japanese industrial production unexpectedly declined by 1.2 percent in July on a monthly basis after an upwardly revised 0.4 percent increase in June and also came in sharp contrast to analysts' estimate of 1.7 percent gain. Meanwhile, consumer prices in the world's third largest economy declined for the third straight month in July. Core Consumer Price Index (CPI), which excludes fresh food, fell 0.3 percent in July on annual basis compared to 0.2 percent decline in June and in line with Bloomberg's survey.
Data released by the National Statistical Office showed that South Korea's industrial production declined for the second month in July. Industrial production declined 1.6 percent in July, down from 0.6 percent decrease in June and worse than the expected 0.9 per cent contraction.
Meanwhile, investors are waiting for Bernanke's speech at the Jackson Hole symposium for hints of a further round of quantitative easing and is expected to disappoint as official data Wednesday showed that the world's largest economy expanded slightly faster than initially thought in the second quarter. Fed officials are also divided over whether more easing is warranted as the data released throughout the last few weeks have generally pointed to a modest recovery.
"Mr. Bernanke is unlikely to go beyond the sentiments expressed in the August FOMC minutes. We believe that he views the FOMC as the appropriate source for any policy decision and is unlikely to signal a fait accompli with strong hints in either direction. This is especially true as the Fed will need to consider next week's August job market data in its deliberations," said a note from Credit Agricole.
Exporter companies' shares led the declines in Tokyo as the yen gained against its major counterparts after weak economic data. Honda Motor Co Ltd. declined 2.41 percent and Sony Corp. fell 2.76 percent while Sharp Corp. slumped 12.78 percent.
Nippon Steel Corp. plunged 5.63 percent and Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd slumped 5.13 percent after both the companies widened their net loss forecasts for the six months ending Sept. 30, reflecting a strong yen and tough competition in the industry ahead of their merger, Reuters reported.
In Hong Kong, China Merchants Holdings International Co Ltd. declined 2.41 percent and Citic Pacific Ltd slumped 7.05 percent while Henderson Land Development Co. gained 2.03 percent.
In Seoul, Samsung Electronics Inc. gained 1.48 percent and LG Electronics Inc rose 0.25 percent while Hyundai Motor Co. plunged 2.24 percent.
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