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Asian Markets Suffer Record Losses in 2008

Asian markets ended the last trading session of 2008 mostly higher. However, markets suffered record losses for the whole year.

The euro was gaining ground in Asia as tumbling U.S. yields undermined the dollar, while a truly dire outlook for the UK economy kept sterling pinned near record lows. Crude futures are trading below $39 a barrel with the grim global economic outlook outweighing expectations of further Saudi supply cuts and tension in the Middle East.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index finished the shortened session 1.86 percent higher. But the market delivered its worst year on record in 2008, posting a loss of 41 percent as slowing economies, volatile global markets and a credit crunch slashed the value of the nation's biggest companies such as the Macquarie Group.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed down half a percent with shares of Chinese shipbuilder Cosco dropping 7.7 percent after the firm issued a profit warning. Cosco said late on Tuesday its 2008 financial results would be lower than than last year, hit by a severe downturn in the shipping industry and macroeconomic conditions.

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Hong Kong shares ended 1 percent firmer on the last day of 2008 but shed nearly half their value this year, marking their worst performance in over three decades in the midst of a massive financial meltdown that plunged the world into recession. The Hang Seng Index snapped a five-year winning streak to plunge 48 percent in 2008, its worst performance since a 60 percent slump in 1974 fuelled by the world oil crisis. But a cocktail of accomodative fiscal and monetary policies from governments world over pushed the index up 3.9 percent in December, its biggest monthly gain since April, and helped it close well-off its October low of 10,676.29 points.

Chinese stocks were mixed in thin pre-holiday trade, as financial and property shares stayed firm while airline and steel shares remained soft. The index was heading for an annual loss of 65 percent, making China the world's worst-performing stock market. It is the biggest drop in the market's 18-year history.

Markets in Japan and South Korea are closed till January 5.