Asian benchmarks fall, looking for gains, central banks

TOKYO (AP) – Asian stocks fell on Friday when reports showed layoffs of US workers persist at high levels after the US economy contracted at an annual rate of nearly 33% in the spring, the worst quarter on record.

The earnings reports, an indicator of how well companies are handling the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, added to the sadness. Some tech companies have resisted the trend and are showing positive results. But many companies are suffering.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 benchmark index fell 1.9% to 21,920.98, while South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.2% to 2,262.00. Australia’s S & P / ASX 200 sank 1.9% to 5,939.20. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.3% to 24,633.42, while Shanghai Composite lost 0.3% to 3,278.40.

August tends to be a terrible month for stocks, said Stephen Innes of AxiTrader Corp.

“The stock markets are looking remarkably corrective to the extent that we could be entering a phase of decline as we move forward in August, more commonly known as the summer swoon,” Innes said in a comment.

In a positive sign, China reported its manufacturing activity increased in July and export orders strengthened despite weak demand from the United States and Europe. The monthly survey released on Friday was another sign that the world’s second largest economy is gradually recovering from the coronavirus pandemic.

Central bank meetings for various countries are on the agenda for next week.

“Second-quarter GDP for Indonesia and the Philippines will also be scrutinized, highlighting the impact of the pandemic,” said Bernard Aw, chief economist at IHS Markit in Singapore.

The Japanese government said Thursday night that the nation’s economy is likely to sink 4.5% for the fiscal year ending March 2021. It predicts a return to growth in the following fiscal year.

Japanese companies reporting earnings next week include Sony Corp., Honda Motor Co., Toyota Motor Corp. and Nintendo Co.

Some companies do better than others.

Japanese media reports said Toyota was on its way to becoming the world’s No. 1 automaker again, surpassing Volkswagen, now the leading manufacturer of global vehicle sales. Toyota’s sales were already recovering in markets like China, which is recovering from its first COVID-19 outbreaks, according to the company.

Overnight, the United States reported that the economy contracted at a record annual rate of 32.9% in April-June as pandemic closings expanded.

The news of the deep and abrupt collapse came as the resurgence of outbreaks has pushed companies in many areas to close a second time. The government’s estimate of the second quarter drop in gross domestic product has been unmatched since records began in 1947. The worst quarterly contraction previously, at 10%, less than a third of what was reported Thursday, occurred in 1958 during the Eisenhower administration.

The bad news was not a big surprise, and on Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% to 3,246.22. Nearly three out of four stocks in the index decreased. Those most affected were oil producers, banks, and other companies that need the economy the most to escape the recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.9% to 26,313.65.

The stocks appeared poised for a much steeper drop earlier in the day, but stronger-than-expected gains reported by UPS and other companies helped the market cut its losses. So did Amazon’s stable prices and other big tech-oriented stocks, which reported their own results. after the trading day ended.

The anticipation of their reports, which proved to be even better than expected by Wall Street, helped the Nasdaq compound completely erase its early loss and rise 0.4% to 10,587.81.

But overall, earnings reports have been well below last year’s levels, before the pandemic occurred. Large companies in the S&P 500 are on track to report a nearly 38% drop for the second quarter of the previous year, according to FactSet.

Shortly after the day’s operations ended, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google’s parent company reported higher earnings for the last quarter than Wall Street had forecast. Investors have continued to flock to them hoping they will prosper as the pandemic accelerates a shift toward online trading.

Benchmark US crude gained 14 cents at $ 40.06 a barrel in e-commerce on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 37 cents to $ 43.31 a barrel.

The dollar fell to 104.22 Japanese yen from 104.73 yen. The euro cost $ 1.1894, compared to $ 1.1846.


AP business writer Stan Choe contributed.