Asia stocks mixed after China trade growth shrinks

By ALEX KENNEDY | July 9, 2012 | 11:47 PM EDT

SINGAPORE (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday after China reported trade growth slowed last month amid weakening global demand.

Stock markets in Asia were higher in early trading but lost momentum after China said the growth rate for its imports fell in June by half from the previous month's level to 6.3 percent while exports grew 11.3 percent, down from May's 15.3 percent.

China's slowing demand for oil, iron ore and other foreign goods is bad news for other economies that had been looking to relatively strong Chinese growth to help drive demand for their exports.

China cut lending rates last week for the second time in a month in a bid to boost waning economic growth, but some analysts say policymakers have been too slow to react to signs of a sharp slowdown.

"Expectations have been high for a quick turnaround in economic growth but the reality has been a deliberate, ponderous easing that has failed to pre-empt the weaker economic data," said Sean Darby, chief global equity strategist for Jefferies. "Although valuations are appealing, a modest bearish position seems warranted until interest rates move to their cycle lows."

Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.3 percent to 8,920.56 while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.3 percent at 19,364.92.

South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5 percent to 1,826.31. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.2 percent to 4,111.30 and China's Shanghai Composite shed 0.3 percent to 2,163.91.

Other analysts argue that investors may be too pessimistic. The U.S. and Europe will likely implement strong monetary stimulus measures if growth slows much further, and many stocks are cheap when valued against their likely earnings, said Garry Evans, global head of equity strategy for HSBC in Hong Kong.

"It's wrong to be too bearish," Evans said. "Central banks offer likely support for equity markets. With valuations this low, indexes can rise in line with earnings growth."

Evans said he expects global stocks to rise 9 percent over the rest of this year.

On Monday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 0.3 percent at 12,736.29. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 0.2 percent to 1,352.46. The Nasdaq composite was down 0.2 at 2,931.77.

Benchmark oil for August delivery was down $1.09 at $84.90 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $1.54 to settle at $85.99 on Monday in New York.

In currencies, the euro fell slightly to $1.2292 from $1.2309 late Monday in New York. The dollar dropped to 79.52 yen from 79.58 yen.