KUALA LUMPUR – Asian stocks were little changed and Chinese stocks gained after the nation’s trade data beat expectations. Energy companies dropped as oil traded at the lowest in more than 5 1/2 years.
CIMB Group Holdings Bhd surged 14% after people with knowledge of the matter said the Malaysian bank is planning to scrap a merger with RHB Capital Bhd. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland stocks listed in Hong Kong gained 0.4%. BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s largest oil producer, fell 1.9 percent and energy explorer Inpex Corp. retreated 2.6% in Tokyo.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1% to 137.74 as of 8:15 p.m. in Hong Kong. West Texas Intermediate oil fell below US$45 a barrel.
“If China’s trade flows continue to be positive it’s one shining light in a country that’s plagued by an oversupplied property market,” said Jason Teh, who helps manage A$5 billion ($4.1 billion) at Investors Mutual Ltd in Sydney. “It’s been a little bit volatile but equity markets are holding up as opposed to what you’ve seen in the collapse of the commodity space. You’ve seen safe-haven assets being bid up.”
China’s exports jumped 9.7% in December, beating the 6% advance predicted by economists, as overseas demand supported growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Imports fell 2.4% compared with a projected 6.2% decline as the trade surplus narrowed from November’s record US$54.4 billion. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2%, while the Hang Seng Index added 0.8%.
Meanwhile, reports say that Japan’s Topix index sank 0.4% percent, paring losses of as much as 1.9% as the yen weakened against the dollar. The nation’s current-account surplus was 433 billion yen in November, finance ministry data showed, wider than economists’ 139.5 billion yen estimate.
South Korea’s Kospi index retreated 0.2%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.3%, led by energy and materials firms. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.5% to a record high. Taiwan’s Taiex Index advanced 0.6%.
The decline in crude gathered pace as Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Societe Generale SA cut price forecasts for the commodity, amid projections a global glut will continue. Crude has to “stay lower for longer” if investment in shale is to be curtailed to re-balance the global market, according to Goldman analysts. WTI dropped as much as 3.4% to US$44.44 a barrel.
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.6%. The underlying measure slid 0.8% recently as energy shares slid ahead of earnings and a report showed falling US. wages.