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Asian Stocks End Mostly Lower, India Plunges

Asian stocks ended in negative territory Wednesday, following Wall Street's decline after disappointing earnings from big U.S. banks while record crude prices fueled concerns about the outlook for corporate profits.

A stockbroker watches his terminal during trading in Bombay, India, Thursday, May 18, 2006. Indian shares plunged Thursday, with the benchmark stock index tumbling 6.8 percent, or more than 800 points, its biggest point drop ever, largely on fears of higher taxes on foreign funds that invest in Indian stocks. (AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)
Rajesh Nirgude
A stockbroker watches his terminal during trading in Bombay, India, Thursday, May 18, 2006. Indian shares plunged Thursday, with the benchmark stock index tumbling 6.8 percent, or more than 800 points, its biggest point drop ever, largely on fears of higher taxes on foreign funds that invest in Indian stocks. (AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)

India's Bombay Sensex Index was the biggest decliner on Wednesday, falling as much as 8% after the stock market regulator proposed urgent curbs on the flow of foreign funds into shares. After resuming trade from a 1 hour suspension, the market trimmed some of its losses to close lower by 2.1%.

But better-than-expected earnings from technology bellwethers Intel and Yahoo, which posted results after the U.S. market close, helped lift some technology shares such as Yahoo Japan and Samsung Electronics.

Financial shares remained under pressure after big U.S. banks including Wells Fargo posted profits that missed Wall Street's estimates due to credit losses. Australia's Macquarie Bank, Japan's Mitsubishi UFJ, Singapore's DBS Group and South Korea's Shinhan Financial Group were all lower.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 average fell below the 17,000 level for the first time in two weeks. Shares in Sanyo Electric plunged after the firm decided not to sell its semiconductor business. Sanyo said talks with private equity firm Advantage Partners had collapsed.

South Korea's KOSPI was down sharply, over 2 percent lower as POSCO dived as much as 6 percent after an unexpected fall in its quarterly profit, while record oil prices routed fuel-cost sensitive firms such as Korean Air. LG Electronics rose as much as 4.7% on renewed optimism about its earnings outlook.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended 1.2% higher, while the Shanghai Composite Index fell to end 0.9% lower. Investors sold Angang Steel shares after it said media reports on its forecast for 2007 profit and sales revenue, which helped to send its shares to a record high on Tuesday, were not true.

Australian shares weaved in-and-out of negative territory, buoyed by energy firms such like Woodside Petroleum asoil prices hit record highs, while CSL climbed on solid first-quarter guidance.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.8% higher, as market debutante China Oilfield Technology more than doubled to an intraday high of S$1.36 from its IPO price of S$0.60.