HONG KONG -- Chinese stocks struggled Tuesday after trade data weighed on investor concerns about the fundamental weakness of the world's second-largest economy.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended 1.9% lower at 3,470.07, falling below the 3,500 level for the first time since Dec. 1. The Shenzhen Composite Index slipped 1.8% to 2,221.26. Shenzhen's ChiNext index for startups was down 1.7%, while the small and midsize enterprise index fell 2.1%.
China's General Administration of Customs in the morning released the latest trade data. For November, compared with a year earlier in dollar terms, exports plunged 6.8%, down for the 5th consecutive month and missing market expectations. "Disappointing export data suggest that foreign demand remains subdued," Julian Evans-Pritchard, an economist at Capital Economics, pointed out in a report.
Imports dropped 8.7%.
Since crude oil futures fell overnight to a six-year low in New York, oil stocks were especially weak in Shanghai. PetroChina fell 2%, while China Petroleum & Chemical (Sinopec) was down 2.2%. In contrast, falling oil prices pushed up airline shares. Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines all rose. The market was also under pressure from the restart of initial public offerings.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 1.3% to 21,905.13. The Hang Seng China Enterprise Index, consisting of mainland Chinese H shares listed in Hong Kong, was down 1.4% at 9,660.87.
In Hong Kong, financial stocks weighed on the market. HSBC Holdings decreased 1.4%, and AIA Group lost 1.3%. China Construction Bank (CCB), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and Bank of China (BOC) were also down.
Other Asian shares fell Tuesday. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average closed 1% lower at 19,492.60 despite an upward revision of the country's July-September GDP data, released in the morning. South Korea's benchmark Kospi Index was down 0.7% at 1,949.04, while Taiwan's weighted index dropped 1.3% to 8,343.86.
The benchmark indexes in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India and the Philippines were all down on Tuesday afternoon.