Asian stocks fell Tuesday, with Japan's Nikkei hitting a nearly four-month closing low, while the U.S. dollar surged as investors scrambled for safety from deteriorating global economic conditions and volatile banks.
U.S. stock futures fell 1.6 percent, indicating a weak open on Wall Street after a holiday on Monday, ahead of results from the world's largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores. The dollar shot higher as investors cut down risks and held on to liquidity amid global market volatility. Even the yen, which has often gained during periods of heightened market volatility, slid against the U.S. currency , though not as much as the euro . Heavy euro selling tripped automatic sell orders planted just below $1.27. Emerging Asian currencies broadly weakened against the dollar. U.S. crude futures were trading below the $37 a barrel level, having lost 12 percent so far in February.
Japan's Nikkei 225 Average shed 1.4 percent to a nearly four-month closing low, as financial shares such as banks and property firms slid on continued credit worries. But trade was cautious ahead of restructuring plans that General Motors and Chrysler are required to submit by Tuesdayshowing how they can be made viable after receiving $13.4 billion in emergency aid.
South Korea's KOSPI finished down 4.1 percent, at its lowest close in more than 3 weeks, with techs such as Hynix Semiconductor leading the fall on a grim industry outlook, while banks were weighed down by the weaker won.
Australian shares closed down 1.5 percent on worries about European banks and poor results, though debt-laden companies Oz Minerals and Paperlinx gained on deals to ease their woes. Pure Energy Resources jumped 11.8 percent, as a bidding war for the coal seam gas producer heated up. BG Group raised its takeover offer by 25 percentto A$8.00 per share, trumping a bid by Arrow Energy.
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Hong Kong shares fell 3.8 percent with Chinese stocks leading decliners after the Shanghai bourse broke its long-running rally, but beaten-down shares in Bank of East Asia rose ahead of its earnings report. Worries about slowing corporate earnings and likely capital raising weighed on shares across the board, with three stocks in the red for every one in the black. China Mobile was down 4.4 percent after Deutsche Bank downgraded the index heavyweight to hold from buy, citing increased competition from rival China Telecom.
Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 2.5 percent, to its lowest level to date this year, tracking weakness in Nikkei and KOSPI amid ongoing concern on slowing global economy in wake of weak Japan GDP data. Property heavyweights among worst performing blue chips after government data showed weak January unit sales. Singapore Airlines slipped 4.5 percent after January operating data showed continued deterioration in passenger and cargo traffic.
China's Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.9 percent on profit-taking in steel companies and airline stocks.