In Asia Thursday Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell 2% to 9,369 and China's Shanghai Composite rose 1.7% to 2,656. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index inched down 0.1% to 22,358.
A small drop in Japanese factory output meant big headaches for manufacturers today as shares plunged. In August, factories scaled back production by 0.3%, according to Bloomberg, whose own survey had predicted a gain of 1.1%. The decline signals a lack of enthusiasm among global consumers -- enthusiasm that probably won't return before employment figures rise significantly.
The high value of the yen is further complicating matters, making local production and local workers more expensive in comparison to the value of products sold abroad.
Today most Japanese shares fell. Furukawa Electric, which makes optical fiber cables in the U.S. and metal products including aluminum cans, tumbled 4.6%, Meidensha, a maker of construction machinery dived 4.4%, GS Yuasa, a maker of large and small storage batteries, slumped 3.3% and Fuji Electric sank 3.1%.
It was a down day for electronics makers with Pioneer sinking 3.6% and Panasonic losing 2%. Sony, the maker of the popular PS3 tumbled 2.4%, but that was peanuts compared with rival Nintendo, which nosedived 9.3% after admitting that it will have to delay the release of its much-hyped handheld, 3-D, glasses-free 3DS until the end of February in Japan -- and until March in the U.S.-- according to Appleinsider.com, completely missing out on Christmas sales.
The retailing sector also pulled back today with UNY, a Japanese department store with a Hong Kong location beside a popular ice skating rink, falling 4.6%, J. Front Retailing tumbling 4.9% and Fast Retailing, operator of the trendy Uniqlo stores around the globe, sliding 2.3%. Takashimaya, which has already closed up shop in New York, declined 2.9%.
Among car companies heavily dependent on overseas sales, Toyota lost 2.5%, Nissan fell 2%, Honda slipped 1.1% and Mazda slid 1%. Suzuki Motor, one of the most popular motorcycle brands in Asia, tumbled 3%.
In China, property investors breathed a sigh of relief as the government outlined new restrictions on real estate investments. The announcement put an end to the uncertainty and speculation that new measures to rein in property speculation could be even harsher. The government says it will begin trialing property taxes in some cities, and has also restricted bank loans for the purchase of third homes. Buyers of first homes will have to cough up a 30% down payment.
Today Chinese real estate shares recouped recent losses with Poly Real Estate surging 8.9% China Vanke soaring 7.6% and Gemdale climbing 5.2%.
Chinese gold miners also rose today after gold flirted near the top, going for $1,313 in London. Zijin Mining rocketed up 8.8% and Shandong Gold Mining racked up a 6.9% gain. Other raw materials producers also gained with Jiangxi Copper advancing 3.3% and Yunnan Copper Industry rising 2.4%, despite a fall in the price of copper on the London Metal Exchange. Yanzhou Coal Mining added 2.5%, but Aluminum Corp. of China tumbled 4.8%.
In Hong Kong banking shares declined after Goldman Sachs sold a stake in Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, which declined 3.2% in today's trading. Other banks followed the trend with HSBC slumping 0.9% and Bank of China and Bank of Communications both losing 0.5%.
There were big gains for some Hong Kong-listed developers with New World Development scoring a 4% gain, Sun Hung Kai rising 3%, Hang Lung climbing 2.7% and Cheung Kong advancing 2.5%, but concern that the policy changes on the mainland will hamper gains sent some developers lower. China Resources Land dropped 4.4% and China Overseas sank 2.4%.