Asian Stocks Swing on Utilities, Telecom Services

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Asian stocks swung between gains and losses, with the regional benchmark index trading near a three-week low, as telecommunication shares dropped while utilities advanced.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501), the owner of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, rebounded 5.9 percent after declining 20 percent over the past five days. Cokal Ltd., a coal mine developer, slumped 22 percent in Sydney after saying takeover talks with Blumont Group Ltd. were affected by a record plunge in the buyer’s stock. Blumont soared 62 percent today in Singapore after sinking 85 percent yesterday. Rakuten Inc., which operates a Japanese online mall, fell 12 percent after Yahoo Japan Corp. said it would eliminate vendor fees for its shopping and auction sites.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index climbed 0.3 percent to 138.25 as of 12:48 p.m. in Tokyo after falling as much as 0.3 percent. The measure closed yesterday at the lowest since Sept. 13 as the partial U.S. government shutdown stoked concern lawmakers will fail to raise the nation’s $16.7 trillion debt limit this month.

“The market isn’t moving anywhere because of the external overhang about the U.S. fiscal situation,” said Tim Leung, a Hong Kong-based portfolio manager who helps manage about $1.5 billion at IG Investment Ltd. “The topic is the likelihood of a U.S. default, and that could be disruptive, but I don’t think at the moment people are assuming this is going to happen. If the market assumes there will be a default, the index won’t be at this level.”

Regional Gauges

Japan’s Topix index erased losses to climb 0.3 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index dropped 0.2 percent and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index fell 0.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index decreased 0.3 percent even as data showed business confidence surged in September to the highest level in 3 1/2 years.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) gained 0.9 percent. Singapore’s Straits Times Index rose 0.3 percent and Taiwan’s Taiex index added 0.3 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5 percent as markets in mainland China reopened today after a week-long holiday.

HSBC Holdings Plc and Markit Economics’ purchasing managers’ index for China’s service industries was 52.4 in September, compared with 52.8 in August, data showed today. A reading above 50 denotes expansion.

China Economy

“The broad impression I get is that the Chinese economy has pulled back from the slowdown scenario this year, but it’s not taking off,” said Shane Oliver, Sydney-based head of investment strategy at AMP Capital Investors Ltd., which has $131 billion under management.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index were little changed after the gauge slumped 0.9 percent to a one-month low yesterday. Without an increase to the debt limit, the U.S. will exhaust its borrowing authority on Oct. 17 and would run out of funds to pay all of its bills sometime between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index traded at 13.3 times estimated earnings as of yesterday, compared with 15.1 for the S&P 500 and 14.1 for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

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