Asian markets fell on Wednesday despite better-than-expected US and European data, while Standard Chartered bank rebounded after settling claims it helped Iranian firms dodge US sanctions.
With many traders away for summer breaks volume was light and movement limited, while Wall Street offered little guidance with a mixed finish.
Hong Kong fell 1.18 per cent, or 239.39 points, to 20,052.29, Tokyo was off 0.05 percent, or 4.84 points, to 8,925.04, and Sydney lost 0.26 percent, or 11 points, to 4,281.2.
Shanghai lost 1.10 per cent, or 23.58 points, to 2,118.95. Seoul was closed for a public holiday.
The falls came despite official data showing that US retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 0.8 percent in July, breaking a three-month losing streak and offering hope of faster growth in the third quarter.
US stocks made early gains Tuesday on the figures but ended mixed, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.02 per cent, the S&P 500 down 0.01 per cent and the tech-rich Nasdaq down 0.18 per cent.
The retail figures may have disappointed some investors who were hoping for further poor data that would spur the US Federal Reserve into new stimulus measures to kickstart growth, analysts said.
The hope of US action, combined with hints from the European Central Bank that it would restart a bond-buying programme to help crisis-hit eurozone countries, has helped drive solid gains in stocks this month.
Meanwhile a poor set of trade and production figures from China last week has raised expectations of fresh monetary easing by Beijing. Despite Wednesday’s weak performance, analysts expected market sentiment to remain largely positive.
“Investors’ expectations for global central banks to ease remains the supportive factor for equity prices,” Jackson Wong, investment manager at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong, told Dow Jones Newswires.
In Europe, second-quarter growth in eurozone heavyweights France and Germany came in better than expected, providing some respite for the under-pressure single currency, official data showed Tuesday.
The German economy, the continent’s biggest, grew by 0.3 percent owing to rising exports and solid domestic demand, while the French economy posted zero growth, defying forecasts that it would begin to slide into recession. The overall picture remained bleak, however. The EU statistics office estimated that economic growth fell by 0.2 percent for the eurozone as a whole in the second quarter compared with the first three months of the year. In Hong Kong, Standard Chartered closed 3.56 percent higher at HK$171.7 after the London-based lender said it would pay a fine of $340 million from a New York banking watchdog.
Its shares surged above 6.5 percent on the news earlier in the day but did not reach their August 6 level of HK$188.10, before the Iran accusations emerged.
The “civil penalty” came amid allegations the bank, a household name in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, hid 60,000 transactions with proscribed Iranian clients worth $250 billion over 10 years.
Analysts said the settlement was far from the worst-case scenario for the bank. Some had feared it could lose its New York banking licence, effectively cutting it off from the US market.
On foreign exchange markets in early European trade, the dollar rose to 78.96 yen, from 78.73 yen in New York Tuesday afternoon. The euro rose to $1.2332 and 97.38 yen, from $1.2321 and 97.01 yen in New York.
Oil slipped in the afternoon. New York’s main contract, West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for delivery in September, was down 35 cents to $93.08, and Brent North Sea crude for September dropped 33 cents to $113.70. Gold was at $1,594.67 at 1115 GMT, compared to $1,612.75 on Tuesday.