World markets fall as Japan's recession deepens

LONDON - World markets fell on Monday, as new figures showed Japan's economy contracted at its quickest pace in 35 years and the summit of Group of Seven finance ministers this weekend provided few concrete proposals to counter the economic crisis.

By (AP)

Published: Mon 16 Feb 2009, 5:52 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 10:23 PM

By noon in mainland Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.7 percent to 4,161.27, Germany's DAX sank 0.6 percent to 4,386.25, and France's CAC 40 dropped 0.7 percent to 2,977.76. Trading was expected to be subdued as U.S. markets will remain closed for Presidents Day.

Japan's worse-than-expected fourth quarter GDP numbers were a sobering reminder of the toll the worst economic downturn in decades is having on Asia's export-driven economies. The world's second-biggest economy shrank 3.3 percent from the previous quarter, or at an annual pace of 12.7 percent.

In Europe, financial stocks dragged down markets. In London, shares in Lloyds Banking Group dived for a second day, following its revelation Friday of larger-than-expected losses at recently acquired Halifax-Bank of Scotland and on market fears the combined company may be headed for nationalization. Shares dropped 20 percent in early trading, but regained ground to be down 1 percent. Shares had dropped 30 percent on Friday.

Life assurance companies also dragged the FTSE 100 down. Legal & General Group Plc fell 8.9 percent, Prudential lost 4.6 percent and Aviva slipped 2.9 percent.

“Whereas before people were just selling banks, now they are looking at the risk involved with other financials, like life assurance," said Jane Coffey, head of equities at Royal London Asset Management.

Investors also seemed disappointed after finance chiefs from the Group of Seven developed countries finished their meeting in Rome with pledges to work together to boost growth and unemployment, but stopped short of concrete measures.

Increasingly, investors are unconvinced world governments are acting quick enough to counter the economic crisis, analysts said.

“The global recession is deeper than anticipated. At the same time policy makers are failing to deliver measures to address the problems," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist for SJS Markets in Hong Kong. “It seems that what they're doing is too little too late."

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average edged down 0.4 percent to 7,750.17, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index dropped 0.7 percent to 13,455.88. South Korea's Kospi lost 1.4 percent.

India's benchmark tumbled 3.6 percent after the government, proposing its inim budget, offered no new stimulus measures. Markets in Australia and Singapore also retreated.

In Japan, several exporters were hurt by the data showing the economy sank deeper into recession.

The result represents the steepest drop for Japan since the oil shock of 1974 and outpaced GDP drops in the U.S. and the euro zone. A survey of economists by Kyodo news agency h!dprojected an 11.6 percent annualized contraction.

“It's clearly very shocking data," said Clive McDonnell, head of Asia strategy at BNP Paribas Securities in Hong Kong. “The drop is certainly beyond our own quite negative expectations. (Japan's) policy response has not been as effective."

Shares in Toyota Motor Corp. lost 0.7 percent, while electronics heavyweight Canon Inc. slid 1.2 percent and Sony Corp. fell 1.3 percent.

Bucking the wider trend, Shanghai's benchmark climbed 3 percent to 5 1/2-month high to extend China's recent really.

Since the sart of the year, Shanghai's index has risen more than 31 percent. But analysts say the rise has been driven not by economic fundamentals, but by a surge in bank lending that has sent money flowing into the market.

“The economic fundamentals are not strong enough to support the market's rise," said Zhang Xiang, an analyst for Guodu Securities in Beijing. “The market is in an irrational state, which is not going to last long."

U.S. equity markets are closed Monday for Presidents Day. Wall Street futures slipped in Monday trade, with Dow futures down 0.1 percent and Standard & Poor's futures losing 0.04 percent.

Friday, the Dow fell 1 percent to 7,850.41, its lowest close since Nov. 20. The S&P also fell 1 percent, ending its week off 4.8 percent.

In the coming days, investors will be watching President Barack Obama, expected to sign the country's $787 billion economic stimulus measure on Tuesday. He plans to outline steps to stem home foreclosures on Wednesday, though analysts say investor enthusiasm surrounding the pending announcement is fairly low.

Oil prices were steady after soaring 10 percent last week, trading 26 cents higher at $37.77 for a barrel of light, sweet crude for March delivery. The contract rose $3.53 to settle at $37.51 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Friday.

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