Australian stocks fell on heavy volume and Chinese stocks soared today after data showed signs of bottoming in the world’s second biggest economy and domestic September-quarter exports dived 6.4 per cent.
Closing at the day’s low and below trendline support, the S&P/ASX 200 index fell 59.4 points, or 1.31 per cent, to 4457.6 points, despite the official China October PMI index edging out of the contraction zone to 50.2 points.
National Australia Bank led weakness in the banking sector after the RP Data Rismark capital house price index fell one per cent in October, underlining warnings that lenders faced mounting bad debt problems.
Regional sentiment was hit by the slump in electronic giant Panasonic’s profit that confirmed the weakening global consumer demand reflected in Apple and Canon’s profit slowdown last week.
The Shanghai composite index was up 1.7 per cent at the close of the ASX after the HSBC purchasing managers index climbed 1.6 points to an eight-month high of 49.5 points as new orders increased for the first time in a year.
Japan’s Nikkei index recovered early losses and was up 0.2 per cent as the Chinese data offset the poor earnings outlook.
Last night US markets resumed trading following the two-day closure from Hurricane Sandy but failed to hold onto early gains to close flat. Market darling Apple remained under pressure, losing 1.6 per cent.
US stocks initially rose on the view that President Obama’s re-election hopes had been bolstered by the storm, but the Chicago PMI index missed forecasts as it dropped to 49.9 points.
The Australia dollar was steady at $US1.0370 as the US dollar remained on the back foot against most major currencies.
Gold rose $US10 to $US1720 an ounce, while copper rose 0.3 per cent to $US a tonne, while On Wednesday spot iron ore slipped US50¢ to $US119.30 a tonne.
The broader All Ordinaries index had lost 55.5 points, or 1.2 per cent, at 4479.9.
On the ASX 24, the December share price index futures contract was 63 points lower at 4441, with 39,303 contracts traded.
IG Markets analyst Stan Shamu said most sectors were weaker.
"It’s hard to tell what caused the weakness,” Mr Shamu said."It’s more to do with a lack of buying to support some of these stocks affecting their price action."
Mr Shamu said much of the recent market support had come from the materials sector.
"Materials has had a good run, so some people might be taking profits,” he said.
Among Australian-listed resources stocks, global miner BHP Billiton was down 43 cents at $33.82, and Rio Tinto was 69 cents weaker at $56.25.
Network Ten shares fell one cent to 27 cents after reports funds manager Perpetual sold a 7.8 per cent shareholding in the broadcaster valued at about $30.2 million.
Perpetual sagged $1.20 to $26.74 after it said it expected its first half underlying profit to be in line with the previous years, as it continues to overhaul its business to improve returns.
Whitehaven Coal lost five cents to $3.00 after managing director Tony Haggarty said investors had sent majority shareholder Nathan Tinkler a clear message after they overwhelmingly re-elected chairman Mark Vaile and four other directors.
Shares in steelmaker Arrium plunged 10 cents, or 12.7 per cent, to 69.5 cents after its Asian consortium suitor walked away from a takeover bid.
Among the major banks, National Australia Bank dropped 77 cents to $25.02, Westpac shed 37 cents to $25.14, Commonwealth Bank shed 48 cents to $57.27 and ANZ fell 12 cents to $25.33.
Transfield Services lifted 0.5 cents to $1.59 after shareholders ratified the appointment of chief executive Graeme Hunt.
National turnover was 1.98 billion securities worth $4.88 billion, with 354 stocks up, 601 down and 345 unchanged.