Asian stocks fall as signs of slump mount

November 12, 2008 12:38:31 AM PST
Asian stock markets faltered Wednesday, with Hong Kong's benchmark down almost 2 percent, as evidence mounted that a worsening global economy has taken a toll on companies.

Japan's Nikkei stock average slid 146.11 points, or 1.7 percent, to 8,663.19 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 256.49, or 1.8 percent, to 13,784.41.

In China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.8 percent to end morning trading at 1,828.56, as growing skepticism over the likely effectiveness of the country's $586 billion stimulus plan clouded sentiment.

"The markets are more pessimistic today," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist at CFC Seymor in Hong Kong. "It is evident that recession is having a detrimental impact on demand, prices, sales and profits."

Investors found few reasons to buy after Wall Street pulled back as it became clear that slowing consumer demand was hitting a wide cross-section of companies.

Starbucks Corp. reported lower sales across the coffee chain, homebuilder Toll Brothers Inc. posted a sharp drop in revenue and said it was to difficult to forecast next year's results. Aluminum producer Alcoa Inc. announced production cuts due to lower prices.

Corporate Asia only added to the gloom as leading Japanese energy producer Inpex Holdings cut its forecasts amid slumping oil prices. There were also signs that Chinese shoppers were holding back after figures showed a softening in the country's retail sales in October compared with a year earlier.

In New York overnight, the Dow Jones industrial average shed 176.58, or 2 percent, to 8,693.96 after falling by more than 300. Tuesday's close was the Dow's lowest since its 5 1/2-year closing low on Oct. 27 of 8,175.77.

Broader stock indicators declined as well. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 20.26, or 2.2 percent, to 898.95, and the Nasdaq composite index dropped 35.84, or 2.2 percent, to 1,580.90.

Oil prices were hovering near 20-month lows, with light, sweet crude for December delivery down 31 cents to $59.02 a barrel, after falling as low as $58.55, in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange by midday in Singapore.

The contract overnight fell $3.08 to settle at $59.33, the lowest closing price since March 2007.

In currencies, the dollar strengthened to 97.7 yen from 97.16 and was trading at 1.2564 against the euro.


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