Asian Stocks Fall as U.S. to Hold Syria Accountable

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Asian stocks fell, with the regional benchmark index poised to snap a two-day gain, after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the president will hold Syria’s government accountable for using chemical weapons.

Toyota Motor Corp. (7203), Asia’s biggest carmaker and the heaviest-weighted stock on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index, lost 0.6 percent in Tokyo. Billabong International Ltd., an Australian surfwear company, slumped 10 percent after it posted a loss more than three times its market value and said its core brand was worthless. Tokyo Electric Power Co. jumped 10 percent after the government said it would take over the handling of radioactive water spills at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 131.43 as of 12:22 p.m. in Tokyo, with five shares declining for every three that rose on the gauge.

“There’s uncertainty over the geopolitical issues,” Angus Gluskie, chief investment officer at White Funds Management in Sydney, where he helps oversee about $500 million, said by telephone. “It’s a destabilizing factor. Many people like us would be saying let’s stand on the sidelines. At the moment, we’re not putting more money back into equities.”

Japan’s Topix index and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 were little changed. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index lost 0.1 percent. South Korea’s Kospi Index added 0.4 percent as data showed the nation’s consumer confidence was unchanged in August.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.3 percent. Trading of PetroChina Co. and Kunlun Energy Co. has been suspended pending an announcement.

Industrial Profits

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.1 percent as data showed July profit at industrial companies gained 11.6 percent from a year earlier. Taiwan’s Taiex Index slid 0.3 percent and Singapore’s Straits Times Index dropped 0.8 percent.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) fell 0.1 percent today. The measure lost 0.4 percent yesterday, reversing gains, as Kerry said President Barack Obama is consulting with allies and members of Congress over Syria’s “moral obscenity” of using chemical weapons against its people.

The Asia-Pacific gauge rose 1.7 percent this year through yesterday, lagging a 16 percent surge in the S&P 500 as growth slows in China and speculation that the Fed will curb economic stimulus spurred investors to sell assets across Asia and emerging markets.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index traded at 12.9 times estimated earnings yesterday, compared with 15 for the S&P 500 Index and 13.9 times for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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