CANBERA (Alliance News) - Asian stocks fell broadly on Monday as investors looked ahead to US corporate earnings and minutes of the Federal Reserve's last policy meeting due for release on Wednesday for direction. The US markets were closed Friday for the Independence Day holiday, leaving investors devoid of any major catalysts after recent gains.
Japanese shares fell from 5-1/2-month highs on profit taking as investors turned cautious amid a lack of fresh triggers. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 0.37% to 15,379.44 in lackluster trading, while the broader Topix index shed 0.4%. Among the prominent decliners, Inpex Corp, Ajinomoto, Itochu Corp, Pioneer and Pacific Metals dropped 2-3%. Retailer Aeon Co. slumped 5.1% after disappointing first-quarter results. The safe-haven yen was little moved amid speculation the US Federal Reserve may hike interest rates sooner than anticipated.
Chinese shares ended largely unchanged, as technology and pharma stocks declined on concerns about upcoming earnings, offsetting gains in the property sector. China Vanke climbed 3.3%, extending Friday's 4% rally. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index edged up 0.03% to 2,059.93, while Hong Kong'sHang Seng index slipped 0.02% to 23,540.92.
Australian shares slipped marginally from one-month highs as iron ore futures fell in China. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 0.11% at 5,518.9 after rising 1.5% in the previous week, its biggest weekly gain since February. Mining giant Rio Tinto dropped half a percent, smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group tumbled 2.8%, Bluescope Steel declined 2.5% and Iluka Resources retreated 2%, while BHP Billiton rose 0.3%.
Banks also ended mixed, with Westpac losing 0.2% and Commonwealth declining 0.7%, while NAB edged up marginally and ANZ rose 0.3%. Shares of gaming machine maker Aristocrat Leisure were placed in a trading halt after the company agreed to acquire a US gaming group in a deal worth AUD1.38 billion. Shares of Wotif.com Holdings jumped nearly 25% as US online travel company, Expedia, launched an AUUSD700 million takeover bid for the company.
On the economic front, the construction sector in Australia moved to expansion in June for the first time this year, a survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed - posting an index score of 51.8. That's up sharply from 46.7 in May and marks the highest reading since 55.2 in November 2013. Another report showed that Australian job advertisements increased 4.3% in June from the previous month, partially reversing a 5.7% decline in May.
Seoul shares drifted lower on institutional selling ahead of a parliamentary appearance of the finance minister nominee on Tuesday and the Bank of Korea's policy meeting on Thursday. The benchmark Kospi average fell 0.23% to 2,005.12. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics dropped 1.1% ahead of the release of its earnings guidance for the second quarter due on Tuesday.
New Zealand shares ended marginally lower in thin trading amid a lack fresh trading cues. The benchmark NZX-50 index slipped 0.05% to 5,186.36. Mainfreight led the decliners on the exchange, falling 2.8% to USD14.43, while Telecom and Kathmandu Holdings dropped 1-2%. Fletcher Building, the nation's largest construction company, gained a percent and online auction site Trade Me advanced 1.7%.
In economic releases, New Zealand house prices rose at a faster rate in June, data from Quotable Value showed. Property prices rose 2.1% sequentially in the three months ended June following the 0.7% increase in the three months ended May. On an annual basis, the pace of gains slowed 8% in the month after 8.2% growth in May.
Elsewhere, Indonesia's Jakarta Composite index was rallying 1.4%, the benchmark indexes in Malaysia and Singapore were up about half a percent each, India's Sensex was moving up 0.4% and the Taiwan Weighted average edged up 0.1%.
European stocks drifted lower on Friday, ending a three-day rally that saw widespread gains across the region following robust US jobs growth data and dovish talk from central bankers in the US and Europe. The German DAX slipped 0.2% and France's CAC 40 dropped half a percent, while the UK'sFTSE 100 ended virtually unchanged.