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Asian stocks slip on slower growth

Jun 06 2011 09:33 Reuters

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Singapore - Asian stocks slipped on Monday after weak US employment data set a cautious tone to the week, further hobbling the dollar and putting the rising euro on a path to $1.50 ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting.

The weakest US jobs growth in eight months in May reflected a global business cycle shifting to slower growth and confirmed what many investors had been already anticipating by taking a defensive stance in their portfolios.

The two outstanding questions for them are if the synchronised slowdown reflected in industrial indicators around the globe is a warning of something worse on the horizon and whether monetary policy can again come to the rescue of major economies this time.

For that reason, this week's meetings of the ECB, embroiled in questions about the need for more Greece aid, the Bank of England, the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Bank of Korea will be focal points for investors.

Japan's Nikkei share average was down 0.9% near the low end of a trading range established since mid April.

Fast Retailing , operator of the Uniqlo clothing chain, was the biggest drag on the Nikkei, down 2.1%, reversing Friday's gains. But Toyota shares curbed further losses in the Nikkei, rising 0.5% on the company's forecast that production will recover to 90% of levels before the massive March earthquake.

For Japan's stock market, a significant issue is whether valuations can contract any more than they already have in an economy waylaid by natural disasters and political ineffectiveness.

Japanese equities are trading at 0.7 times current book value, Thomson Reuters StarMine showed, the second cheapest market in the G20. Italy is the only cheaper market.

"What other major global stock markets are undervalued to this extent?" said Kenichi Hirano, a strategist at Tachibana Securities. "The US market may have entered a correction phase, but the Tokyo market may not follow suit."

Australian's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.4% after earlier hitting the lowest since March 17.

Markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea were closed for a long holiday weekend, but traders were on watch for further tightening measures by China's central bank

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