Asian Markets Continue To Push Lower


After yesterday’s selloff, Asian markets are down again. The Nikkei is riding a 5-day losing streak. Europe, however, has rebounded a little, and US futures are roughly flat.


BANGKOK (AP) — Asia’s stock markets mostly retreated Friday following a glum session on Wall Street as evidence of a weak economic recovery continued to pile up. European shares rose.

Benchmarks in Tokyo, Sydney and Hong Kong fell half a per cent or more while oil lingered under $78 a barrel following a big tumble overnight. Technology stocks were weak after Sony’s turnaround plans failed to inspire confidence and Dell Inc. warned that sales of its computers to big businesses remain sluggish.

Reports on the U.S. economy gave investors little reason to hold on to stocks. Figures from the labour Department indicated that employers are still shedding jobs, and the Mortgage Bankers Association reported a surge in foreclosures.

Markets, especially in Asia, have rallied hard since their nadir in March as investors anticipated the global economy would rebound quickly from its worst recession in decades.

Major economies are growing again, according to the latest figures, but the rebound is moderate and many economists expect growth rates in Asia and the West to fall short of pre-crisis levels for several years.

That’s made investors increasingly nervous about driving markets even higher as company earnings — temporarily bostered by massive cost cutting and layoffs — could be disappointing.

As trading got underway in Europe, benchmarks in Germany, Britain and France were each up 0.6 per cent but stock futures pointed to a lackluster start for Wall Street. Dow futures were off 3 points at 10,324 and S&P futures slipped 0.1 point to 1,094.20.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average lost 51.79, or 0.5 per cent, to 9,497.68 despite the central bank upgrading its assessment of the world’s No. 2 economy.

More tellingly, the Bank of Japan left its key interest rate unchanged at a super low 0.1 per cent — a sign of how fragile the economic recovery is — while top officials warned of the dangers posed by months of falling consumer prices.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 187.32, or 0.8 per cent, to 22,455.84 and Australia’s benchmark fell 1.3 per cent as mining behemoths like BHP Billiton declined.

South Korea’s Kospi was flat while China’s Shanghai index shed 0.4 per cent. India’s Sensex reversed course to gain 1 per cent.

In Tokyo trade, Sony Corp. slid 2.4 per cent as investors remained unconvinced by CEO Howard Stringer’s plans to turnaround the loss-making electronics giant. Sony is headed for a back-to-back billion dollar loss in the fiscal year ending March, 2010.

In the U.S. Thursday, the Dow fell 93.87, or 0.9 per cent, to 10,332.44, after being down as much as 170. It was the Dow’s biggest point drop since Oct. 30.

The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 14.90, or 1.3 per cent, to 1,094.90, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 36.32, or 1.7 per cent, to 2,156.82.

Oil prices hovered below $78 a barrel in Asia as investors eyed a volatile U.S. dollar and mixed economic data.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was up 24 cents to $77.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract, which expires later on Friday, gave up $2.12 to settle at $77.46 on Thursday.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 88.85 yen from 88.98 yen. The euro slipped to $1.4907 from $1.4922.

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