Asian stocks retreat as investors await delayed Greek reforms, Yellen testimony

Asian stocks dropped as investors awaited details on Greece's package of economic measures and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony to lawmakers. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Asian stocks dropped as investors awaited details on Greece's package of economic measures and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony to lawmakers. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY (Bloomberg) - Asian stocks dropped as investors awaited details on Greece's package of economic measures and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's testimony to lawmakers.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slipped 0.1 per cent to 144.79 as of 9.01 a.m. in Tokyo, with seven of its 10 industry groups retreating. The measure closed last week at a five-month high. Japan's Topix index sank 0.3 percent today.

"Most investors are waiting for statements from the U.S. financial authorities and news of Greece's economic policies," Toshihiko Matsuno, chief strategist at SMBC Friend Securities Co., said by phone from Tokyo.

A draft list of Greece's pledges was sent to creditor institutions on Monday, based on a provisional agreement on Feb. 20. A Greek government official said the policies will be provided to the euro-area group of finance ministers on Tuesday before they discuss on a conference call whether the commitments go far enough. Yellen addresses Congress in two days of testimony starting Tuesday, with investors watching for clues on the timing of an interest-rate increase.

South Korea's Kospi index added 0.4 per cent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.2 per cent and New Zealand's NZX 50 Index slid 0.4 per cent. Hong Kong is yet to open, while markets in mainland China remain shut until Wednesday for Lunar New Year holidays.

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were little changed after the gauge slipped less than 0.1 per cent in New York Monday.

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes fell more than expected in January as a tight supply forced up prices, showing the residential real-estate market faces an uneven recovery. Purchases slowed 4.9 percent to a 4.82 million annualized rate, the least since April, according to figures from the National Association of Realtors.

Honda Motor, Japan's third-largest carmaker, sank 0.9 per cent after naming a new chief executive offer. In a surprise announcement on Monday in Tokyo, 61-year-old Takanobu Ito said he'll hand over the reins to Managing Officer Takahiro Hachigo, 55, after the annual shareholders' meeting in late June.

HSBC slumped the most since 2011 in London after reporting fourth-quarter profit that was lower than analyst estimates as costs and conduct provisions rose. The bank is the heaviest-weighted stock on Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index, accounting for about 12 per cent of the measure. Futures on the gauge slid 0.6 per cent in their most recent session.