Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Stocks Decline, Slowdown Fears Remain

Asian stocks slipped for a fourth consecutive session and the yen climbed against the euro Monday, as a relentless global economic slowdown renewed investor caution about taking on risk.

Japanese markets are closed for the Coming of Age day holiday and will reopen Tuesday.

Friday's December U.S. payrolls report, which showed more than half a million jobs lost and the highest unemployment rate since 1993, aggravated anxieties that consumer demand for Asian exports is nowhere near recovering, keeping oil prices near $40 a barrel. The euro fell against the U.S. dollar. Against the yen , the euro was weaker after an aggressive selloff on Friday.

Seoul shares finished 2 percent lower as Friday's weak U.S. job data stoked economic worries sending industrials lower, but LG Display gained after news of an LCD supply deal with Apple.  Meanwhile shares in KT Corp ended 4 percent higher after a local media report on Sunday that South Korea's top fixed-line and broadband provider plans to seek approval for a long-anticipated  merger with its mobile service unit KTF Co.

Australian stocks trimmed early losses but ended down 1.4 percent as miners BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and the banks slid on mounting concerns about a deep global recession.

Hong Kong shares fell for a fifth straight session, matching a similar selloff in October when the market plumbed its year low, as investors turned risk-averse, spooked by record U.S. jobless numbers. Shares in China Eastern Airlines, one of the country's big three carriers, slid 7.1 percent after the airline said it would report a large loss for 2008 because of slumping traffic and losses on fuel price hedging contracts. The airline estimated it would suffer a loss of about 6.2 billion yuan ($908 million) because it had marked down the value of its fuel hedging contracts after the unexpectedly steep drop of global oil prices late last year.

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Singapore's Straits Times Index extended losses, down 1.6 percent.  Oil rigbuilders and shipping stocks fell after several contract cancellations, leading to fears over orders in a sector hit by weakening economic growth and falling oil prices. Sembcorp Marine slid 12.5 percent and industry leader Keppel Corp also fell 8.9 percent, after oil services firm Seadrill said Friday it would postpone payments for rigs from both firms.

China's stock market rose as the strength of copper futures on the London Metal exchange continued to push up metal producers, though sluggish bank shares dampened the Shanghai Composite Index. Banks were narrowly mixed amid continued worries about the possibility of
more large sales of banks' H shares in Hong Kong, after Bank of America and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing last week cut their stakes in two top banks. Bank of Communications slipped. Property developers were also soft with Gemdale dropping after saying its December property sales fell 9.05 percent from a month earlier in area terms and 10.73 percent in value terms.