World Economy

Asia Stocks Little Changed

Asia Stocks Little ChangedAsia Stocks Little Changed

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 percent 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 percent. BHP Billiton Ltd., Australia’s largest oil producer, fell 1.9 percent and energy explorer Inpex Corp. retreated 2.6 percent in Tokyo.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 0.1 percent to 137.74 as of 8:15 p.m. in Hong Kong. West Texas Intermediate oil fell below $45 a barrel Tuesday.

“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 percent in December, beating the 6 percent advance predicted by economists, as overseas demand supported growth in the world’s second-largest economy. Imports fell 2.4 percent compared with a projected 6.2 percent decline as the trade surplus narrowed from November’s record $54.4 billion. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.2 percent while the Hang Seng Index added 0.8 percent.

  Japan Drops

Japan’s Topix index sank 0.4 percent, paring losses of as much as 1.9 percent 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 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.3 percent, led by energy and materials firms. New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index added 0.5 percent to a record high. Taiwan’s Taiex Index advanced 0.6 percent.

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 percent to $44.44 a barrel.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index added 0.6 percent.