Asian Markets End Mostly Lower as Oil Climbs
Asian stocks slipped to a two-year low Friday, falling for a fourth straight week, as a surge in oil prices to above $121 knocked the U.S. dollar and the spiraling financial crisis showed no signs of ending.
Crude oil prices have been driven up 6.5 percent this week on escalating tensions between the United States and Russia, the world's second-largest oil exporter. Russia's military intervention in Georgia has disrupted crude transit, supporting prices.
A rise in commodity prices cut short a two-week rally in the U.S. dollar, though analysts said the currency's 1.3 percent decline this week was understandable given its stellar rise recently and that an upward trend is still intact.
Investor anxiety about the financial sector meanwhile lingered. Freddie Mac, one of the top U.S. mortgage finance companies, is talking with private-equity and other investors about buying some shares but faces fears that a government bailout would wipe out any investment.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average dropped to its lowest close in nearly five months, as blue-chip exporters such as Honda Motor fell on a stronger yen and deepening concerns about the global economy. Financial stocks suffered as credit woes continued to haunt Wall Street, with top lender Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group ending at its lowest close since March 17, when the market plunged on investor panic over the near-collapse of U.S. securities giant Bear Stearns.
South Korea KOSPI shares lost 1 percent to finish at a 16-month low, extending their losing streak to five sessions, as tech issues tumbled on outlook worries and Kookmin Bank fell on concerns about its holding company plans.
Australian shares bucked the negative trend and gained 1.2 percent, helped by a bounce for financial firms and by stronger resources stocks. BHP Billiton and Santos advanced, while Australia & New Zealand Banking Group fell after a review revealed management weaknesses.
Chinese stocks pared back losses as turnover shrank on fading hopes that a major economic stimulus package was imminent. Shanghai Composite Index was down 1.1 percent. Shares in several brokerages, which had gained earlier this week on hopes for measures to revitalise the stock market, were hit hard. CITIC Securities, the biggest listed brokerage, slid over 6 percent at one point after jumping over 14 percent in the previous two days.
Singapore's Straits Times Index ended 0.4 percent higher. Shares of FJ Benjamin dropped more than 6 percent as the retailer posted a 31 percent fall in full year net profit. Singapore Computer Systems requested a trading halt as shareholder Green Dot Capital, a unit of state investor Temasek Holdings, is evaluating its stake in the computer services firm.
The Hong Kong market is closed today as Typhoon Nuri approaches the city. Non-essential government agencies, schools and most businesses are also shut.