Asian markets fall on China property woes

SINGAPORE (AFP): Asian markets posted sharp losses in early Monday trade, after falls in US tech stocks and as concerns over China’s property sector weigh on sentiment.

Leading the losers in Hong Kong — where shares were down more than two percent — was major developer Country Garden whose colossal debt has raised fears of a bankruptcy that could shake the stuttering Chinese economy.

Its stocks were down by more than 16 percent by 11:00 am (0300 GMT).

Country Garden is a privately-owned real estate giant named in Forbes’ list of the 500 largest companies in the world. Its boss, Yang Huiyan, was until recently one of the richest women in Asia.

The firm has long been deemed financially solid but was unable last Monday to make two bond payments, and after a 30-day grace period the company risks defaulting in September if it still cannot pay.

Country Garden announced over the weekend it would suspend trading of onshore bonds from Monday, a decision likely to cause concern in the markets as the company’s total debt was estimated at some 1.15 trillion yuan ($159 billion) at the end of 2022.

Like its heavily indebted competitor Evergrande, any collapse of Country Garden would have catastrophic repercussions for the Chinese financial system and economy.

China’s “third quarter has started on a weak note, with weakening exports and imports in July, a significant property developer reportedly missing a bond payment, and CPI inflation joining PPI in the negative year-over-year territory, although primarily due to food prices”, Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management wrote in a note.

“The two major contributors to China’s growth, exports and property, are experiencing major setbacks and negatively impacting the local and broader ASEAN risk markets.”

Singapore dipped by more than one percent and Tokyo was off 0.9 percent.

Shanghai, Bangkok and Jakarta were also down.

Stock markets wavered Friday after US data showed a bigger-than-expected rise in wholesale inflation and traders weighed the likelihood of more interest-rate hikes this year.

All eyes will be on the US retail sales report for July and the minutes of the July 26 Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

Wholesale prices in the United States picked up in July on a surge in services costs, according to government data released Friday.

The US markets ended the week mixed, with the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index falling 0.6 percent while the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up 0.3 percent.

European stocks ended the trading week firmly in the red.

– Key figures around 0230 GMT –

Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 2.4 percent at 18,609.54

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.0 percent at 3,158.45

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.9 percent at 32,187.11

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0934 from $1.0993 on Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2673 from $1.2686

Euro/pound: DOWN at 86.28 pence from 86.65 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 144.90 from 144.75 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.67 percent at $82.63 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 0.69 percent at $86.21 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 0.3 percent at 35,281.40 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.2 percent at 7,524.16 points (close)