HONG KONG: Asian markets edged down on Wednesday, shrugging off positive US retail sales and signs that the embattled eurozone may be faring better than feared.
With traders away for summer breaks volume was light and movement limited, but one exception was Standard Chartered whose shares jumped more than five per cent in Hong Kong after the bank settled claims it helped Iranian clients dodge US sanctions.
Tokyo was down 0.17 per cent, Hong Kong fell 1.12 per cent, Sydney was off 0.49 per cent and Shanghai slipped 0.67 per cent. Seoul was closed for a public holiday.
The falls came despite news that US retail sales rose by a better-than-expected 0.8 per cent in July, breaking a three-month losing streak and offering hope of faster growth in the third quarter, official data showed.
US stocks made early gains 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 the 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 have raised expectations of fresh monetary easing by Beijing.
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 per cent 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.
European stocks rose on the better-than-expected data.
In Hong Kong, London-based bank Standard Chartered was up 5.49 per cent at HK$174.9 in morning trade Wednesday after it said it would pay a fine of $340 million from a New York banking watchdog.
The “civil penalty” came amid allegations the bank hid 60,000 transactions with proscribed Iranian clients worth $250 billion over 10 years.
On foreign exchange markets, the dollar stood at 78.81 yen, firming from 78.73 yen in New York on Tuesday.
The euro was at $1.2328 and 97.14 yen, nearly flat from $1.2321 and 97.01 yen in New York.
Oil slipped in early trade. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate light sweet crude for September delivery, fell 25 cents to $93.18, and Brent North Sea crude for September dropped 34 cents to $113.69.
Gold was at $1,601.67 at 0320 GMT on Wednesday, compared to $1,612.75 on Tuesday.