|China data weakens Asia shares|
Shanghai and Hong Kong led Asian stocks markets lower on Monday, as weak trade data from China weighed on regional sentiment, while shares in Malaysia Airlines sank after one of its planes went missing over the weekend.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index stumbled 153.93 points, or 1%, to 15,120.14
The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong collapsed 395.56 points, or 1.8%, to 22,264.93
Along with weak manufacturing data so far this year, the trade figures became the latest poor economic number to come out of China.
The resulting concerns over the economy have made Chinese stocks among the region’s worst performers in 2014, with the Hang Seng Index down 4.3% year-to-date--second only to the Nikkei, which is 7% lower over the same period.
Elsewhere in Asia, the impact was felt most in Australia -- a country with strong trade ties with China. Mining stocks were badly hit, with Rio Tinto losing 5% and BHP Billiton 3.5% lower.
Japan stocks were lower after the country posted a fourth straight month of current-account deficit in January. The yen strengthened against the U.S. dollar and was last trading at ¥103.12 to the dollar, compared with ¥103.26 late Friday in New York.
In corporate news, shares in Leighton Holdings jumped 11% higher in Sydney after Germany’s Hochtief AG bid 1.2 billion Australian dollars to increase its controlling stake in Australia’s largest construction company.
The Shanghai CSI 300 Index got bruised 70.57 points, or 3.3%, to 2,097.79
Chinese exports sank 18.1% from a year earlier in February, much lower than the 5% increase that was expected by economists, and following a healthy 10.6% expansion in January.
Although the sharp drop raised concerns over Asia’s largest economy, distortions due to the long Lunar New Year holidays could have contributed to the surprise fall.
There were additional signs that the Chinese economy could be running out of steam, as data showed that Chinese consumer prices rose by 2% year-over-year in February.
The Chinese currency and copper prices were also hit by the trade data. The yuan fell as low as 6.1594 to the U.S. dollar early in the session, compared with Friday’s close of 6.1260 in New York, and was last trading at 6.1402 per dollar.
In other markets;
In Taiwan, the Taiex slid 48.72 points, or 0.6%, to 8,665.24
Singapore’s Straits Times Index lost 9.63 points, or 0.3%, to 3,126.63
Korea’s Kospi Index skidded 20.26 points, or 1%, to 1,954.62
The New Zealand Exchange 50 index gave back 7.82 points, or 0.2%, to 5,117.84, ending its win streak at six sessions.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 50.79 points, or 0.9%, to 5,411.52.