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Stocks Drop for First Time Four Days as Commodities Decline on China Trade

Published: March 12, 2012 | 9:21 am
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Stocks (MXWO) fell for the first time in four days, commodities slid and the yuan weakened after Chinese exports grew at a slower pace than forecast. Indian shares advanced as the central bank unexpectedly cut reserve requirements for banks.
The MSCI All-Country World Index (MXWD) dropped 0.2 percent as of 8:06 a.m. in London. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index lost 0.2 percent and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures slipped 0.2 percent. The yuan fell after China’s central bank weakened its daily fixing for the currency by the most since August 2010. Yields on German 10-year bonds fell two basis points to 1.78 percent. The S&P GSCI gauge of 24 commodities lost 0.4 percent, led by natural gas and silver.

China reported the biggest trade deficit in at least 22 years on March 10, adding to data last week on factory output and retail sales that signaled slowing economic growth. European finance ministers will meet in Brussels today to sign off on the 130 billion-euro ($170 billion) aid package for Greece and discuss Spain’s budget-cutting efforts.
“All the economic data point to a slowing trend” in China, said Wu Kan, a Shanghai-based fund manager at Dazhong Insurance Co., which oversees $285 million. “Investors are expecting the government to loosen monetary policy, though whether the government moves fast enough to satisfy those expectations remains to be seen.”

Reserve-Ratio Cut

The BSE India Sensitive Index, or Sensex, gained 0.5 percent after the central bank on March 9 reduced the amount of deposits lenders need to set aside as reserves to ease a cash squeeze in the banking system. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.4 percent and South Korea’s Kospi Index (KOSPI) lost 0.8 percent.
The MSCI Asia-Pacific gauge slid 1 percent last week, ending a record run of 11 weekly advances. The valuation for the equity benchmark reached 15 times estimated earnings in February, the highest level in almost two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) declined 0.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.2 percent. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will close an annual gathering of the legislature this week. The nation cut its 2012 economic growth target to 7.5 percent on March 5, down from 8 percent over the past seven years.

China Exports

Exports from China rose 18.4 percent last month from a year earlier, while imports gained 39.6 percent. Analysts forecast a 31.1 percent increase in overseas sales and that inbound shipments would rise 31.8 percent, based on estimates from Bloomberg News surveys.
China Railway Group Ltd. (390), the country’s biggest builder of train lines, tumbled 5.4 percent in Hong Kong. A 300-meter section of an unopened high-speed railway collapsed in central China’s Hubei province following heavy rains, Xinhua News said, citing local authorities.
The yuan lost 0.22 percent to 6.3245 per dollar for the biggest drop since January. The daily reference rate was set 0.33 percent lower at 6.3282 per dollar. The currency can move 0.5 percent either side of the fixing.
Brent oil for April settlement slid 0.5 percent to $125.39 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Hedge funds reduced bullish bets on oil for the first time in five weeks as concern about a conflict with Iran decreased. Large speculators cut wagers on rising prices by 7.3 percent in the week ended March 6, according to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Oil, Cotton

“The data from China is a downside pressure on the oil market,” said Ken Hasegawa, a commodity-derivative sales manager at Newedge Group in Tokyo. “The trade deficit is much bigger than expected.”
Cotton futures dropped as much as 0.9 percent to 88.01 cents a pound in New York. India, the world’s second-biggest cotton producer, scrapped a one-week-old ban on exports of the fiber after protests from growers, traders and China, the nation’s largest customer.
The cost of insuring bonds against non-payment in Asia rose, according to credit-default swap traders. The Markit iTraxx Asia index of 40 investment-grade borrowers outside Japan increased 2 basis points to 159 basis points, Barclays Plc prices show. The measure is headed for its highest close since March 7, according to data provider CMA.
Yields on Australia’s 10-year government bonds declined nine basis points to 3.92 percent. Ten-year Treasury yields fell one basis point to 2.01 percent.

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