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Asia: Stocks fall seventh day as global growth concerns linger

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[SYDNEY] Asian stocks dropped for a seventh day, the longest losing streak in almost five months, amid global economic growth concerns.

The MSCI Asia Pacific excluding Japan Index declined 0.4 per cent to 405.69 as of 9:31 am in Hong Kong. A report Wednesday showed US companies hired fewer workers in April than estimated, signaling employment gains may have slowed and adding to anxiety over growth. The data came ahead of Friday's monthly government payrolls report on US jobs. Equity markets in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia are closed for holidays.

"The overall sentiment is disbelief," Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets Asia Pacific Ltd, said by phone.

"Investors are struggling to reconcile valuations with the risks. It's going to remain a difficult environment."

Global equities have fallen to their lowest level in almost a month amid concern over weak company earnings and lackluster data on manufacturing and employment. Federal Reserve Bank chiefs of Atlanta and San Francisco have highlighted the prospect of an interest-rate increase next month, with Friday's US payrolls data seen as key to investors' assessment of the next moves in monetary policy. A measure of Chinese services is due Thursday.

Gold Allure

Stan Druckenmiller, the billionaire investor with one of the best long-term track records in money management, said the bull market in stocks has "exhausted itself" and that gold is his largest currency allocation. He averaged annual returns of 30 per cent from 1986 through 2010 at his Duquesne Capital Management.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.8 per cent and the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of mainland firms listed in the city fell 1.2 per cent. The Shanghai Composite Index retreated 0.2 per cent.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.2 per cent, led by financial stocks. National Australia Bank Ltd climbed 3.2 per cent in Sydney after posting a 6.5 per cent increase in first-half cash profit as it bucked a trend among Australia's largest lenders by decreasing bad-debt charges and as margins improved for the first time since 2011.

Crown Resorts Ltd, the gaming company of James Packer, rose 5 per cent in Sydney after selling US$800 million worth of shares in its Macau venture, raising speculation the billionaire is increasing his firepower for a potential purchase of Australian casino assets. The sale was at a 6 per cent premium, Deutsche Bank analyst Mark Wilson wrote in a report.

New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 Index added 0.3 per cent. Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.6 per cent. Taiwan's Taiex index dropped 0.5 per cent.

Futures on the S&P 500 gained 0.2 per cent after the underlying gauge fell 0.6 per cent Wednesday. Bank shares were among the biggest losers for a second day, while energy and raw-material producers lagged for a third session.

BLOOMBERG