Asian stocks fall as oil decline signals slowing China economy

A man using his mobile phone at the Indonesia Stock Exchange in Jakarta on Aug 13.
A man using his mobile phone at the Indonesia Stock Exchange in Jakarta on Aug 13. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Asian stocks fell a fourth day as a deepening commodities selloff raised concern growth may be slowing in China, and as investors await clues from the Federal Reserve on the timing of a US interest-rate increase.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index dropped 0.1 per cent to 136.83 as of 9:01 am in Tokyo, extending a seven-month low. Crude oil resumed losses and copper dropped to the lowest since 2009 as concern mounted that slower growth in China will erode demand for raw materials. Minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting will come under scrutiny Wednesday, with market expectations for a September rate hike falling to about 48 per cent from around 50 per cent last week.

"There's a flow-on effect of the issues given concerns over the Chinese economic slowdown," said James Lindsay, who helps manage the equivalent of about US$3 billion in assets at Nikko Asset Management NZ Ltd. in Auckland. "The consensus is the Fed will raise rates in September, but there's a potential for that to be pushed out amid increased market volatility."

Japan's Topix index fell 0.4 per cent. South Korea's Kospi index rose 0.1 per cent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index gained 0.1 per cent. New Zealand's NZX 50 Index climbed 0.2 per cent. Markets in China and Hong Kong have yet to open.

The Bloomberg Commodity Index fell on Tuesday to the lowest level since February 2002. The gauge of 22 raw materials declined for a sixth day in the longest run of losses in more than a year. With China the world's biggest consumer of industrial metals, Tuesday's 6.2 per cent slump in the Shanghai Composite Index rattled raw-material investors.

Chinese investors are cutting expectations for stimulus after data showed a stronger housing market and the central bank injected cash into the financial system. The securities regulator said Friday that China Securities Finance Corp., the state agency tasked with supporting share prices, will reduce buying as volatility falls.

Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose less than 0.1 per cent. The underlying measure slid 0.3 per cent on Tuesday.