Oil prices, global economy worries hit Asia

HONG KONG - Asian stocks fell on Monday as a rebound in oil prices to above $126 revived inflation concerns at a time of growing signs that a downturn in the U.S. economy is spreading worldwide.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Mon 4 Aug 2008, 1:53 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 11:48 AM

Fears of a looming recession in the world's top economy dented shares of Asian manufacturers that rely on U.S. demand, such as Toyota Motor, after data on Friday showed another contraction in U.S. employment and a steep loss at auto maker General Motors Corp

European shares were seen headed for a third consecutive session of losses, with investors also bracing for results from HSBC and Fortis for insight on the impact of the credit crisis on the financial sector.

The dollar dipped against the euro, but still remains near a five-week high as investors sell other major currencies amid expectations problems stemming from U.S. credit and housing woes will affect other countries as well.

Gold rose, regaining its safe-haven appeal, especially amid caution ahead of central bank policy meetings this week, including in the United States, while Japanese government bond futures (JGB) hit a four-month high amid the uncertainty.

"The still-high oil price, slowing growth virtually everywhere, profit downgrades, inflation worries and the continuing credit crunch are all big short-term headwinds for shares and are likely to ensure a rough ride," said Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney.

The MSCI index of Asian stocks outside Japan fell 0.7 percent at 0600 GMT.

South Korea's KOSPI index dropped 2 percent after a batch of recently cancelled orders sent shipbuilder shares, such as Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering plunging, in another sign of slowing global demand.

Shares in Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong were all down around 1 percent, while benchmark indices in Australia and Taiwan also fell.

Tokyo's Nikkei index fell 1.2 percent, dragged down by the shares in auto makers: Honda Motor fell 5.75 percent while Toyota lost more than 3 percent.

US Recession?

Concerns about a possible U.S. recession were reinforced by data on Friday showing the unemployment rate hit its highest in four years in July, as employers cut jobs for a seventh consecutive month.

In a bad omen for corporate profits, General Motors reported a $15.5 billion quarterly loss on Friday, while data showed U.S. auto sales plunged to a 16-year low in July. and

Slowing demand from the world's largest economy is taking a global toll. Data due out next week is expected to show Japan's economy probably shrank 0.6 percent in the second quarter, ending three consecutive quarters of expansion.

Adding to the global economy woes, oil prices rebounded amid concerns over Iran's nuclear activities, violence in Nigeria and a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil had tumbled last month amid expectations that record prices were dampening energy demand.

U.S. light crude for September deliver was up $1.05 at $126.15, still below the record above $147 a barrel on July 11.

"We've seen a lot of worries about demand slowing in the past couple of weeks but now it seems like the focus has switched back to supply concerns," said Gerard Burg, a commodities analyst at the National Australian Bank in Melbourne.

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