Asian markets fall amid worries over credit losses

HONG KONG - Asian stocks fell back Tuesday as more signs of credit market woes fueled fears about the world economy and corporate earnings.

By (AP)

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Published: Tue 26 Aug 2008, 6:18 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:57 AM

A day after an encouraging advance, Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index slipped 0.8 percent to 12,778.71, and Hong Kong's blue-chip Hang Seng Index edged 0.2 percent lower to 21,056.66.

In China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 2.6 percent to 2,350.08. Markets in Taiwan, Korean, Australia also fell.

Trade was lethargic trade across the region, as investors seemed almost paralyzed from making major moves in the face of souring global economic conditions.

“Honestly, I've never seen such thin trading," said Masatoshi Sato, senior strategist at Mizuho Investors Securities in Japan. “A do-nothing attitude is very strong."

Wall Street only added to the unease as the Dow industrials fell 241.81 points, or 2.08 percent. Driving stocks lower were renewed concerns about financial institutions after a Credit Suisse analyst forecast steep third-quarter losses at American International Group Inc., the world's largest insurer.

The jitters extended to Tokyo, where banking, consumer finance and securities issues led declines.

Consumer credit firm Credit Saison Co. lost 2.44 percent, brokerage Nomura Securities, Inc. shed 2.07 percent, and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. closed down 1.32 percent.

Real estate issues slumped following news of the latest bankruptcy to hit the struggling sector. Developer Sebon Corp. filed for protection from creditors Monday with 62.1 billion yen (US$569 million) in liabilities.

Developer Joint Corp. tumbled 3.9 percent, and real estate investment fund manager Pacific Holdings, Inc. lost 5 percent.

The country's biggest real estate companies, considered less vulnerable to weakness in the sector, fared slightly better. Mitsui Fudosan Co. fell 1.08 percent, and Sumitomo Realty & Development Co. lost 1.1 percent.

The financial sector turmoil extended to Australia, where major insurance company Suncorp-Metway Ltd. said its net income fell sharply in the first half of the year and predicted further losses from bad debt. The company's shares tumbled more than 3 percent.

In China, overnight losses on Wall Street and reports of slowing growth in corporate earnings weighed on investors.

Airlines slumped as oil prices rebounded above US$115 a barrel. China Eastern Airlines lost 8.75 percent and Air China slipped 7.9 percent. Both carriers were expected to release first half earnings figures later in the day.

Baoshan Iron & Steel lost 5.8 percent after announcing it plans to reduce steel prices later this year due to softening demand.

Analysts said that a report by the state-run Shanghai Securities News that listed companies' profits grew less than half as fast in the first half of 2008 than in the same period a year earlier further sapped buying sentiment.

Based on interim statements by 1,178 publicly traded companies, corporate net profits rose by about 31 percent in January-June, compared with a 70 percent increase in the first half of 2007, it said, forecasting that overall profit growth would be between 20 percent and 30 percent.

Hong Kong largely bucked China's selling momentum, paring its losses as telecom companies plunged and Chinese insurance firms advanced.

Telecommunications firms weighed on the market as investors dumped shares of China Unicom and its takeover target, China Netcom, amid negative analyst reaction to the company's capital spending plans as part of a restructuring of China's telecom industry.

China Unicom plummeted 7.1 percent, while China Netcom tanked 5.2 percent.

The market's benchmark was helped, though, by a late-day surge in insurance issues after market leader China Life posted a first-half loss that nonetheless beat forecasts. China Life climbed 2.2 percent on the news and helped buoy rival Ping An Insurance by 3.3 percent.

In currencies, the dollar stood at 109.88 yen late Tuesday afternoon, up from 109.21 yen late Monday. The euro was trading at US$1.4615 from US$1.4726.

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