HONG KONG (AFP) – Asian markets retreated Monday after data at the weekend showed Chinese industrial output expanded in August at its slowest rate since the global financial crisis.
Wall Street provided a negative lead after another round of solid indicators fanned expectations the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates sooner than later.
The pound edged lower as investors grew jittery about Thursday’s knife-edge Scottish independence referendum, which could see the country break away from the United Kingdom.
Sydney, where several listed companies rely on Chinese business, tumbled 1.04 per cent, or 57.6 points, to 5,473.5 and Seoul closed 0.30 per cent lower, giving up 6.04 points to 2,035.82, while Hong Kong fell 0.73 per cent in the afternoon.
However, Shanghai ended 0.31 per cent higher, adding 7.19 points to 2,339.14 on hopes the weak data will spur the government to unveil fresh easing measures.
Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.
Beijing said Saturday that industrial production grew 6.9 per cent last month, its weakest rate since December 2008.
The key indicator slumped from 9.0 per cent growth in July and was also well short of the 8.7 per cent median increase expected in a survey of 15 economists by The Wall Street Journal.
The figures add to worries about the world’s number two economy – a key driver of global commerce – following recent indicators suggesting growth is weakening even after limited stimulus measures.
“The (government’s) 7.5 per cent (economic) growth target for 2014 is now clearly challenged,” Royal Bank of Scotland said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
In foreign exchange markets the dollar consolidated its recent gains against the yen after solid reports on US retail sales and consumer confidence added to expectations the Fed will tighten monetary policy as the economy picks up.
However on Wall Street Friday the Dow slipped 0.36 per cent, the S&P 500 fell 0.60 per cent and the Nasdaq eased 0.53 per cent. The central bank holds its next policy meeting this week.
In afternoon Singapore trade, the dollar was at 107.27 yen, down from 107.31 yen in New York Friday but still at levels not seen since September 2008.
The euro fetched $1.2953, against $1.2964 Friday, while it was also at 138.95 yen, compared with 139.18 yen.
The pound bought $1.6246, down from $1.6264 after conflicting opinion polls showed the “Yes” and “No” campaigns in front days before Thursday’s referendum.
There are fears about the likely effects of Scottish independence on the British economy and the uncertainty that would cause, including to pension funds and the debt market.
Stephen Walters, chief economist at JP Morgan, Australia, said, “Uncertainty will be with us for the next couple of years as the terms of the separation are negotiated.”
He added that it was still unclear how separation would be carried out, including the monetary regime, the division of assets and liabilities, and Scotland’s EU membership.
“Should it pass, uncertainty would depress growth in the UK for a number of quarters, delay the beginning of monetary policy normalisation, and depress asset prices including the currency,” he added.
Oil prices sank. US benchmark West Texas Intermediate for October delivery eased 96 cents to $91.31, while Brent crude for October slipped 54 cents to $96.57 in afternoon trade.
Gold was at $1,235.10 an ounce, against $1,237.10 late Friday.