Asian stock markets down as weak US earnings offset improvement in China's manufacturing

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – An improvement in China’s manufacturing wasn’t enough to boost Asian stock markets Thursday after Wall Street fell on disappointing corporate earnings.

U.S. stocks broke a four-day streak of record closes after Caterpillar reported a plunge in third quarter earnings and the falling oil price hurt energy stocks. Caterpillar, which makes mining and construction equipment, is considered an important barometer of the global economy. A weak revenue outlook from communications chip maker Broadcom also weighed on sentiment.

Those cues offset a preliminary HSBC survey showing that China’s manufacturing rose to a seven-month high in October, suggesting continued momentum for the rebound in the world’s second-biggest economy.

“I feel some of the disappointing earnings were just an excuse for the sell-off,” said Stan Shamu, strategist with IG Markets in Australia.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1 per cent to 22,779.33 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.5 per cent at 2,172.03.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 shed 0.4 per cent to 14,365.50 while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.4 per cent to 5,375.70.

On Wall Street, the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.5 per cent to 1,746.38 while the Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.4 per cent to 15,413.33.

The S&P had surged 6 per cent over the previous two weeks, capped by a record close of 1,754.67 on Tuesday on signs that the Federal Reserve may refrain from pulling back on its economic stimulus until possibly next year.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude for December delivery was up 47 cents at $97.33 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.44 to $96.86 on Wednesday.

The euro rose to $1.3791 from $1.3774 late Wednesday. The dollar dropped to 97.33 yen from 97.36 yen.