Asian Stocks Tumble on Recession Fears
Asian shares extended losses Monday, with Japan's Nikkei hitting its lowest intraday level since 1982, as investors feared fresh moves expected from central banks this week will not be enough to stave off a deep global recession.
Trading was chaotic as South Korea slashed interest ratesin an emergency meeting and Australia's central bank said it had intervened to support its tumbling currency. The actions come in response to last week's steep sell-off in global markets, especially in emerging economies, that set all kinds of, largely unwelcome, milestones. Yet signs of caution were evident throughout on Monday, as gold surged and regional bonds climbed on a bid to safety.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is widely expected to cut interest rates by another 50 basis points on Wednesday in response to turmoil in financial markets and the threat of a sharp economic downturn. The U.S. government will release its advance report on third-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday. The GDP data could be the first negative print since the revised reading for the fourth quarter of 2007. That and a raft of other economic data this week could indicate how deep a recession the world's largest economy may face.
Currency markets were jumpy, with the yen still well-bid on risk aversion, although the U.S. dollar and euro were off their early lows against the Japanese currency. Oil prices edged lower, trading at the $64 a barrel level.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average finished down 6.4 percent with the index sliding sharply in the final hour of trade to its lowest close in 26 years as the yen advanced on the dollar, battering exporters such as Toyota Motor. Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and other large banks were hammered on concerns they may need to raise billions of dollars each to offset hefty losses on their stock portfolios. The Nikkei shed 486.18 points to 7,162.90, its lowest close since October 1982. The Topix fell 7.4 percent to 746.46.
Seoul shares ended 0.8 percent higher, after swinging widely between positive and negative territory with selling from jittery investors offsetting a boost from the central bank's emergency rate cut. The KOSPI reversed losses in the last minute of trade. It had earlier fallen nearly 5 percent at one point led by losses in telecom and transportation stocks. Bank shares rallied, with Woori Finance Holdings up 11.6 percent, after the Bank of Korea cut its main interest rate by 75 basis points. But mobile carrier SK Telecom fell 3.6 percent.
Australian shares slid 1.6 percent to a fresh four-year low as investors across the region continued to focus on the prospect of a global recession. Gains by the big miners helped to offset steeper losses among the banks, while some discretionary retail stocks suffered on predictions by Merrill Lynch of a consumer recession in 2009. BHP Billiton and target, Rio Tinto , both rose 0.9 percent to A$64.65. Brokers said there was no particular news driving the two higher.
Hong Kong shares slumped 12.7 percent, closing at 11,015.84 points, as energy stocks plunged after an OPEC move to cut output failed to arrest falling oil prices, while banks fell on signs of cooling growth. ICBC, the world's largest bank by market value, slid over 11 percent after reporting a slower pace of growth in third-quarter earnings and posting bigger-than-expected impairment losses on subprime mortgage-linked assets. HSBC Holdings, Europe's largest bank, gave up 14.8 percent, adding to the 12.5 percent plunge on Friday triggered by Morgan Stanley slashing its target price to HK$75 on growing signs of trouble in emerging markets.
China's Shanghai Composite Index was down more than 6 percent, extending its losses as worries about faltering corporate profits mounted with the arrival of the third-quarter earnings
reporting season. Banks were weak, with China Construction Bank down after saying its net profit growth in the third quarter slowed to 12 percent. Ping An Insurance, which announces earnings later in the day, also tumbled.
Markets in Singapore, Malaysia and India are closed for the Diwali holiday. They will reopen Tuesday.