Asian stocks lower on renewed fears on U.S. stimulus program

HONG KONG – Asian stocks tracked losses in the U.S. on renewed concern the Federal Reserve will start scaling back stimulus ahead of schedule after a report showed that the U.S. economy grew faster than predicted.

Investors in Asia were also hanging back on Friday ahead of a weekend meeting in Beijing where China’s communist leaders are expected to lay out their long-term plan for the world’s No. 2 economy. A report that showed strong growth in Chinese exports last month was not enough to counter investor caution.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 sank 1.3 per cent to 14,041.95 while Seoul’s Kospi dropped 0.8 per cent to 1987.79. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.6 per cent at 22,746.53. In mainland China the Shanghai Composite fell 1 per cent to 2,106.95 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index tumbled 1.5 per cent to 996.23.

Australia’s S&P ASX 200 fell 0.8 per cent to 5,390.40. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia also fell.

Asian stocks followed Wall Street lower after the release of quarterly U.S. economic data that showed the U.S. economy grew 2.8 per cent in the third quarter, nearly a percentage point faster than economists had predicted. That led many investors to believe the Fed would start pulling back, or tapering, its bond buying program, with some predicting it could happen as early as December. The Fed is buying $85 billion in bonds every month to hold down interest rates to spur hiring and borrowing in a program known as quantitative easing, or QE.

The Dow fell 0.1 per cent to close at 15,727 while the broader S&P 500 shed 0.4 per cent to 1,764. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.9 per cent to 3,857.33.

Investors were also staying on the sidelines as they await details from the four-day meeting in Beijing starting Saturday. Many expect the meeting to produce a wave of reforms aimed at helping the world’s No. 2 economy shift to healthier growth driven by domestic consumption and technology, but details have been scarce.

“Hong Kong investors are very cautious ahead of the China Communist Party meeting so a lot of investors would like to play the wait-and-see game,” said Jackson Wong, a vice-president at Tanrich Securities. “Secondly, the overnight sell-off in the U.S. did have some negative impact, especially after the good GDP from the U.S. Investors now worry that the Fed might pull the trigger to taper the QE program sooner than originally thought.”

In currencies, the edged up to $1.3409 from $1.3406 in late trading Thursday. The dollar slipped to 98.15 Japanese yen from 98.20 yen.

In energy trading, benchmark crude for December delivery rose 20 cents to $94.40 in electronic trading at the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 60 cents to close at $94.20 a barrel on Thursday.