Asia-Pacific Markets

Asian Markets Slide on Grim Corporate Outlook

Asian markets were mostly lower Monday as the yen and U.S. dollar advanced, with investors expecting another week of grim news on corporate earnings and the global economy.

Rising inventories and a severe pullback in consumer demand in the face of a global economic crisis have had a shock effect on companies around the world and many have been slashing their forecast results for 2009. Hitachi stocks tumbled 17 percent after it warned of a record annual loss.

Dismal U.S. economic reports as well as uncertainty about a massive fiscal stimulus package in Washington helped spark the worst Wall Street January performance ever.  The dollar was slightly lower against the yen while the euro was also weaker against the yen . The euro dipped to a two-month low against the dollar around amid anxiety about the slumping economy in Europe and ahead of a European Central Bank meeting this week. Crude oil futures are trading below $42 a barrel in the Asian session as OPEC signals it might cut production further.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average fell 1.5 percent as Hitachi plunged 17 percent after it warned of a record $7.8 billion loss amid a deepening global recession, while a string of other companies with grim earnings outlooks also tumbled.

South Korea's KOSPI ended 1.3 percent lower as economic worries deepened after a batch of poor data, with Shinhan Financial falling on rumors of a new rights issuance and Hyundai Motor slipping after weak January sales.

Australian shares closed down 1.2 percent, weighed down by gloomy global growth prospects and domestic recession worries, though a strong showing from global miner Rio Tinto helped limit losses. The possibility of a large interest cut when the Reserve Bank of Australia meets on Tuesday as well as a second government economic stimulus package sparked a brief recovery in shares in midsession, before they succumbed again to the reality of a slowing domestic economy. Rio Tinto, the world's No. 2 iron ore miner, kept a lid on losses, rising 5.5 percent after it said it had held talks with state-owned Chinese aluminum company Chinalcoover the acquisition of minority interests in various Rio businesses.

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Hong Kong shares fell 3.1 percent on swirling doubts about the fate of the U.S. bad-bank plan and the lack of new stimulus measures from China over the weekend. HSBC,down 3.8 percent,joined Friday's rout in Wall Street peers like Citigroup as U.S. policymakers struggled to reach a consensus on how a government-run bad bank would workand that the idea may not move forward.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 2.4 percent with the three big banks, DBS Group, UOB and OCBC all in the red.

China's Shanghai Composite Index, reopening after a week-long holiday, edged 1.1 percent up after Premier Wen Jiabao said he saw signs of recovery in the Chinese economy, though further stimulus measures might be needed. Many agricultural shares were strong after the government said it would provide price support, farmland protection and curbs on imports to shore up rural incomes during the economic slowdown. Xinjiang Guannong Fruit & Antler jumped, while Shenzhen Agricultural Products rose also rose.