Shares in Asia fell Thursday with Japan's Nikkei Index falling 0.7% to close at 9,804, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index falling 1% to end the day at 22,398. In China, the Shanghai Composite slid 0.1% to 3,173 after Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the recovery from the economic crisis would be "slow and bumpy."
In Hong Kong, state-owned investment company Citic Pacific (CTPCF) surged 9% after disclosing that as much as two-thirds of the iron ore from its Australian operations will be sold to Chinese mills. Citic has invested $4 billion in Australian projects betting on predictions that China's appetite for iron ore will increase as the country continues to embark on major infrastructure and building projects. Some predict that the nation's economy will grow 10.5% this quarter, and a quick scan of the skyline of any Chinese city sprouting with building cranes is a clear sign of that growth. According to Bloomberg, China could use more iron ore than the total amount ever mined in Australia, and it has to come from somewhere.
But most Hong Kong-listed shares were in negative territory. Bank of China (BACHY) fell 2.3% and HSBC Holdings (HBC), the most heavily weighted company on the Hang Seng, slid 1.1%. Chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International (SMI), which surged 74% yesterday on an announcement of changing leadership, gave back 7.6% of those gains today.
In Japan, consumer lenders fell to spectacularly low levels. Aiful Corp. (AIFLY) plunged 6.5% after reporting record losses spurred by an initiative to refund customers who had been overcharged interest while rival lender Promise Co. (PMSEY) plummeted 5.8 percent. Mizuho Financial Group (MFG) slid 1.1%.
Automotive electronics maker Alps Electric (APELY) plunged 9.3% in Tokyo and Electronics company Fuji Electric Holdings fell 4.9%. Mitsumi Electric (MITMF), which manufactures electronic parts for PCs, dropped 4% and Sony slid 1.3%.
In China, gold mining stocks gained value as the price of gold rose to $1,119.50 in New York. Shandong Gold Mining rose 1.3% and Zijin Mining (ZIJMF) added 0.1%.
In Beijing, a gold mining company has been accused of damaging 330 feet of the Great Wall in Inner Mongolia that dates back to 221 B.C. According to the Associated Press, the company was told to suspend work after the damage was discovered in September, but when inspectors returned, they found that prospecting had continued. As the price of gold continues to rise, it seems that miners will stop at nothing to produce more of it.
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