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Asian Markets Sink on Global Economy Jitters

CNBC.com
Tuesday, 12 May 2009 | 5:08 AM ET

Asian shares fell for a second consecutive session on Tuesday as some of the confidence that fuelled a recent rally was dampened by reports that highlighted the weakness in the global economy.

China's exports fell a worse-than-expected 22.6 percent in April from a year earlier, while imports fell 23.0 percent, the official Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday. The trade data dampened some of the hopes for a turnaround in the global economy that had fuelled a surge in equity markets from their 2009 lows in early March.

The dollar and yen were steady a day after gaining on safe-haven demand. The dollar index, a gauge for the greenback's performance against six other major currencies, was little changed at 82.69, having rebounded throughout the previous session after at one point touching a four-month low of 82.292. Crude oil futures were trading at the $58 a barrel level, while broader commodity prices also fell, tracking stocks lower.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average lost 1.6 percent, succumbing to profit taking after hitting a six-month closing high the previous day, with drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo sliding 9.33 percent after a large annual net loss.

South Korea's KOSPI closed 0.8 percent lower led by banks after news of major U.S. lenders' share offerings, while a South Korean central bank decision to keep the key interest rate unchanged had a limited impact on markets.

Australian stocks fell 1.2 percent to a near one-week closing low, led by losses in banks and miners as investors booked profits after the market's recent rally.

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Hong Kong shares were 0.3 percent higher after the Hang Seng Index moved in a tight range, with sentiment still supported by a high level of liquidity and a firm mainland Chinese market. Leading the fall was Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing ahead of its first-quarter results, while China High Speed Transmission and China Construction Bank were both hit by stake sales.

Singapore's Straits Times Index rose 0.8 percent. City Developments, Southeast Asia's second largest developer, dropped 3.1 percent after it posted a 50 percent drop in first quarter net profit.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.5 percent in shrinking trade, with property, coal and steel shares strong, but investors were cautious after mixed April economic data cast doubt over the economic recovery.