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Asia Stocks Lower, Nikkei Futures Drop on Quake

Nikkei futures tumbled on Friday after a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit northeast Japan, causing many injuries.

Stocks fell across the board as global markets were also unnerved by violence in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most important oil producers. Saudi police fired in the air to disperse protesting Shi'iteson Thursday, and three people were injured in the melee on the eve of a day of protests called for on social media, witnesses and activists said.

The FTSE CNBC Asia 100 Index , which measures markets across Asia, was down 1.2 percent.

Japan's Nikkei average fell to a 5-week low after the devastating qauke and on worries over unrest in Saudi Arabia.

Japanese government bond futures surged in response to the natural disaster. Benchmark June 10-year futures ended 0.66 point higher at 139.20.

Separately, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said on Friday he would not resign, after admitting that his political funds body had received donations from a South Korean resident of Japan, Kyodo news agency reported. Political donations from foreign nationals are illegal in Japan. Market observers said any immediate impact on the market should be limited.

The benchmark Nikkei closed down 1.7 percent at 10,254.43 points. The broader Topix index ended down 1.7 percent at 915.51.

Exporters were lower on worries about the global economy, with Honda Motor falling 2.7 percent, Advantest dropping 3.6 percent and Sony shedding 2.2 percent.

Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru-brand vehicles, lost 0.6 percent after the Nikkei business daily reported the company is planning to team up with a Singapore-based Motor Image Enterprises to start auto production in Malaysia by 2013 at the rate of about 5,000 units a year.

Kirin Holdings lost 0.6 percent to 1,171 yen after it said on Thursday it has acquired all outstanding shares in Malaysian holding company Trade Ocean Holdings, which holds a 57.25 percent stake in Vietnam-based soft drinks maker Interfood Shareholding, in a bid to expand further into emerging markets.

Seoul shares finished lower as global growth fears undermined investors appetite for riskier bets and as the rising price of raw materials looked set to cut into corporate earnings.

The Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) ended down 1.3 percent at 1,955.54 points.

Losses led by key large cap issues such as Hyundai Motor and POSCO which fell 3.2 percent and 1.2 percent respectively.

Korea's consumer price inflation surged to a 27-month high of 4.5 percent in February from a year earlier.

Construction issues also dragged down the market amid persistent worries over mounting tensions in the Middle East ahead of the planned protest in Saudi Arabia.

Shares in Hyundai Engineering & Construction fell 2 percent and Daewoo Engineering & Construction lost 3 percent.

Australia Shares Under Pressure

Australian shares fell 1.2 percent on Friday to log their biggest weekly drop in over nine months as Middle East unrest, Europe's debt crisis and China's surprisingly weak trade data led a flight to safety.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index fell 54.9 points to 4,644.8, its lowest close since December 1, 2010. New Zealand's benchmark NZX 50 index fell 0.7 percent to 3,382.8 points.

Concerns deepened the Middle East crisis will hurt oil supplies for an extended period of time and China's highest trade deficit since February 2004 hurt metal prices.

Global miners BHP Billiton fell 1 percent and Rio Tinto slipped 2 percent.

No.4 lender Australia and New Zealand Banking Group led banks lower with a 1.8 percent drop as investors fretted Europe's debt crisis will push up cost of funding for Australia's banks, which rely on offshore debt for a quarter of their annual funding needs.

Equinox Minerals nudged up 0.6 percent to A$5.14 after Inmet Mining said its offer for Lundin was superior superior to the rival bid from Equinox Minerals because it involves fewer risks and brings better value to shareholders.

Extract Resources climbed 1.2 percent. It has piled pressure on a Chinese nuclear power producer, which has bid for its main owner, to extend the takeover offer to its minority shareholders.

China stocks inched lower as investors remained wary that liquidity will tighten after economic data that showed the country's headline consumer price inflation steadied at 4.9 percentin the year to February, slightly above economists' forecasts for a 4.7 percent rise.

While industrial output in the first two months of 2011 rose 14.1 percent year-on-year from a 13.5 percent pace in December, beating estimates for a 13.3 percent rise.

The Shanghai Composite closed 0.8 percent lower to 2933.79.

Elsewhere in Greater China, Hong Kong stocks fell, tracking the losses seen on Wall Street.

The benchmark Hang Seng index ended down 1.6 percent to 23,249.

Shares in Macau gaming magnate Stanley Ho's SJM Holdings surged 5.5 percent after the chairman of the enclave's biggest casino operator said he had fully resolved his dynastic legal tussle with family members.

In Southeast Asia, markets mirrored the losses seen elsewhere in the region. Singapore's STI and Malaysia's KL Composite lost 1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

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