Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Asian stock markets slide for a 5th day

BANGKOK: Asian stock markets fell for a fifth day Tuesday as China's lending curbs and slower growth in South Korea added to worries the global recovery will sputter once stimulus spending fades.

Major benchmarks were down about 1.5 percent or more while oil slid below $75 a barrel. The dollar rose against the euro and fell versus the yen.

China's efforts to slow the explosive growth in lending that underwrote its recovery has unnerved investors for more than a week. Unprecedented government spending and record low interest rates around the world have allowed a tentative global recovery to take shape but many worry about a relapse into recession once the stimulus impulse weakens.

More evidence that Asia's economic rebound is losing steam came Tuesday from South Korea, where fourth quarter growth slowed to just 0.2 percent because of weakness in manufacturing, construction and exports.

Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said uncertainty surrounding Chinese government measures to curb bank lending and cool the country's property sector was contributing to the selling in regional markets.

"The whole picture is very unclear at the moment. Increasingly investors don't know what to expect. And when the policy isn't clear, you get a lot of investors trying to cash in," Yip said.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 149.61 points, or 1.4 percent, to 10,363.08 and South Korea's Kospi was off 40.89, or 2.5 percent, at 1,629.31.

In Chinese markets, the benchmark Shanghai index dropped 46.93, or 1.5 percent, to 3,047.48 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 329.41, or 1.6 percent, to 20,269.14. Taiwan's index plunged 3.5 percent.

Elsewhere, Singapore's market lost 1.6 percent and Thailand retreated 0.6 percent. Indian and Australian markets were closed for public holidays.

In the U.S. on Monday, the Dow rose 23.88, or 0.2 percent, to 10,196.86 after being up as much as 84 points. The fluctuations were modest, however, after five straight days in which the Dow moved by more than 100 points.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 5.02, or 0.5 percent, to 1,096.78, while the Nasdaq composite index rose 5.51, or 0.3 percent, to 2,210.80.

Oil prices fell below $75 a barrel in Asia, weighed by weaker regional markets and a stronger dollar.

Benchmark crude for March delivery was down 84 cents to $74.42 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 72 cents to settle at $75.26 on Monday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.4080 from $1.4149. The dollar fell to 89.74 yen from 90.24 yen

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