Concerns about US economy send Asian stocks down


Tokyo : Stocks in the Asia-Pacific markets fell Monday on concerns that the US economy was heading toward a recession that would create ripples around the globe after jobs data there showed hiring was down more than expected.

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Among the stocks taking hits were exporters who rely on demand from the US, Asia’s largest export market, and mining companies, which saw the sluggish US housing market weigh on the price of their metals.

The biggest decline in the region was seen in Taiwan, where the Taiex Index fell 4.11 percent to 7,883.37 points.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was also down 2.72 percent to 26,771.99 points, Singapore’s Straits Times Index dropped 2.26 percent to 3,360.25, and Australia’s All Ordinaries Index fell 2.3 percent to 6,161.6 points.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Stock Average lost 1.3 percent of its value to close at 14,500.55 points. Its broader Topix index of all first-section issues was also down 1.36 percent at 1,392.71 points.

The drops followed losses of more than 4 percent for both indices in a half-day of trading Friday, their first of the year.

Among the stocks leading declines were South Korea’s biggest exporter, Samsung Electronics Co, Japan’s Nintendo Co, and Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd, the world’s largest mining company.

Monday’s declines in Asia came after unemployment rose to a two-year high in the US, leading to steep falls on Wall Street Friday, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average saw its worst opening week of a New Year since 1904.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that the jobless rate reached 5 percent in December as employers added 18,000 jobs, compared with additions of more than 100,000 in previous months. Unemployment stood at 4.7 percent in November and 4.4 percent in December 2006.

Later, the blue-chip Dow closed down 2 percent for the day and 3.5 percent for the year so far. Other US indices fell even more.

The jobs data and stock performance spooked investors in Asia into believing the economic situation in the world’s largest economy was worse than they had previously believed.

In the region’s other markets, South Korea’s Kospi index fell 1.76 percent to 1,831.14 points, the 30-share composite index of the Philippine Stock Exchange declined 2.6 percent to 3,388.81, the Stock Exchange of Thailand index dropped 1.58 percent to 808.69, Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh Stock Index fell 1.77 percent to 887.08 and New Zealand’s NZSX-50 index slumped 1.43 percent to 3,953.58 points.

Indian stocks were also lower at midday with the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex index down 0.09 percent at 20,668.16, and the Nifty index on the National Stock Exchange off by 0.73 percent at 6,228.75 points.

Stocks in Pakistan and Malaysia also fell.

In China, where investment restrictions often isolate its markets from global trends, stocks were up. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.59 percent to 5,393.34 points while the Shenzhen Composite Index saw a hike of 1.28 percent to 1,528.

Stocks in Indonesia recovered from early losses to trade in the black.