Asian stocks declined, with the regional benchmark index heading for its biggest drop in five weeks, after China’s manufacturing output unexpectedly contracted and amid speculation the Federal Reserve may soon wind back stimulus.
Jiangxi Copper Co. (358), China’s biggest producer of the metal, dropped 2.5 percent in Hong Kong. Westpac Banking Corp. slipped 4.2 percent, leading Australian lenders lower. Fast Retailing Co., a clothier that has nearly 11 percent weighting on the Nikkei 225, gained 3.9 percent on speculation sales at Japanese retailers will increase after a report showed foreign visitors last month climbed almost a fifth.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 1.1 percent to 141.87 as of 11:56 a.m. in Tokyo, heading for its biggest drop since April 18. Almost four shares fell for each that rose on the gauge. The measure surged 11 percent this year through yesterday as Japanese shares rallied and the U.S. economy improved. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said yesterday that prematurely withdrawing quantitative easing would put the U.S. economic recovery at risk.
“The market is negatively reacting to Bernanke’s comments and disappointing manufacturing data from China,” said Daphne Roth, Singapore-based head of Asia equity research at ABN Amro Private Bank, which oversees about $207 billion. “Investors should use this as an opportunity to accumulate stocks. China’s economy will probably grow a bit faster in the second half as the economies of the U.S. and Japan improve.”