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Asian investors made a stampede for the exit on Monday, with China's Shanghai Composite index posting its biggest one-day percentage loss since 2007, as fears surrounding the health of China's economy multiplied.
"It is a key moment for China, with the equity market in free fall, the banking system increasingly starved of liquidity, rising capital outflows, and a rapidly slowing economy," IG's market analyst Angus Nicholson wrote in a note.
"The [7 percent growth] target is now looking overly ambitious and the most sensible way forward would seemingly involve further currency devaluation, further reserve requirement ratio (RRR) cuts and [elevated] fiscal stimulus," the Melbourne-based analyst added.
China-related jitters also took a toll on Wall Street last Friday, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and tech-heavy Nasdaq slipping into correction territory. The Dow and the S&P 500 ended 3.12 percent and 3.19 percent down respectively, while the Nasdaq Composite lost 3.5 percent. On Friday, the major averages had their biggest trade volume day of the year and posted their worst week in four years.
"We are seeing market capitulation," Daryl Liew, head of portfolio management at REYL, told CNBC. "The U.S. market came to the party last week, on the back of reasons such as the impact of China and how that's feeding into a [possible] delayed rate hike by the Fed, as well as concerns over global growth. There's also the issue of valuations in the U.S. markets."
Mainland markets in free fall
The key Shanghai bourse fell 8.5 percent through a key support level of 3,500 to finish at a five-month low of 3,210.8. The hefty plunge came even as authorities in the stock market for the first time, which could potentially channel hundreds of billions of yuan into the country's struggling equity market.
Among China's other indexes, the benchmark CSI300 index - which consists of 300 A-share stocks listed on the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock exchanges - skidded 8.8 percent, while the smaller Shenzhen Composite retreated 7.7 percent.
According to Reuters, the slump on Monday means that the Shanghai bourse has given up all its gains for the year, while the CSI300 is down over 6 percent for the year.
"Although we remain positive in the long term, we do acknowledge [that there are] signs of a perfect storm due to weakness in the purchasing managers' index (PMI), weak consumption and retail sales, and the recent renminbi devaluation," Stephen Ma, head of Greater China equities at BMO Global Asset Management, told CNBC Asia's "Squawk Box. "
Among the top losers, brokerages such as Citic Securities and Haitong Securities fell by the daily maximum allowable of 10 percent each. Heavyweight developer Poly Real Estate also shaved off 10 percent.
Taiex slumps 4.8%
Taiwan's weighted index fell to a three-year low, even as the country's Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) announced that short selling of stocks below the closing prices of the previous business day will not be permitted.
At one point in the morning trading session, the main TAIEX index slumped 7 percent at an intra-day low of 7,203, with investors spooked by the accelerated downturn in China's equity markets.
On the domestic data front, Taiwan's jobless rate eased slightly to 3.74 percent in July, compared with June's 3.76 percent.
Nikkei skids 4.6%
Japan's Nikkei 225 index finished at its lowest closing level since February 23, as a double whammy of China-related fears and a rejuvenated yen brought the bourse down by its biggest one-day drop in more than 2 years.
The Topix index suffered a 5.9 percent drop, bringing the losses from its eight-year peak hit less than two weeks ago to more than 10 percent.
Export-oriented plays were hammered by the stronger local dollar; Toyota Motor plunged 6.8 percent after announcing a two-week shutdown of their facilities near the Tianjin blast site. Sony and Panasonic also closed down 8 and 5.7 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, the country's Economics Minister Akira Amari said weakness in China's economy must be "watched carefully" as it "may spread to ASEAN and other Asian economies," Reuters reported.
ASX tanks 3.7%
Australia's S&P ASX 200 index ended at its worst close since August 2013 on Monday, after witnessing its steepest percentage drop since May 2012.
It was a broad-based sell-off, with banks and resources names leading the fall. Within the banking sector, Westpac receded more than 5 percent, while Australia and New Zealand Banking, Commonwealth Bank of Australia and National Australia Bank closed down between 3.3 and 4.4 percent.
Oil-related counters were the hardest-hit as West Texas Intermediate (WTI) and the global benchmark Brent crashed to fresh 6-year lows on Monday. Santos tumbled 10.7 percent, while Woodside Petroleum and Oil Search lost 4.3 and 5.4 percent, respectively. Fortescue Metals slumped 14.5 percent after announcing a near 90 percent slump in its annual net profit.
Bucking the downtrend, Bluescope climbed nearly 10 percent following news that the steelmaker swung back to a full-year profit.
Meanwhile, New Zealand shares finished 2.5 percent lower at its lowest in seven months.
Kospi eases 2.5%
South Korea's Kospi index widened losses late in the morning trading session to eventually finish at a two-year low, as steep plunges in China's equity markets added to the nerves of investors who were already concerned about heightened tensions along the Korean peninsula.
Meanwhile, foreign selling persisted for a 13th straight session, with overseas investors offloading a net 292 billion won of main board shares by mid-day, according to report by Reuters.
Rest of Asia
Indian indexes touched their lowest levels in more than two months after the key BSE Sensex index and the 50-share Nifty index lost more than 5 percent each.
In Southeast Asia, Philippine shares were the biggest losers, down 7.2 percent to an eight-month trough.
Shares in Vietnam was the second-biggest laggard in the region, chalking up losses of 5.3 percent, while Indonesia's Jakarta Composite slid to its lowest since December 2013.
Singapore's Straits Times index and Malaysia's FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI index retreated to more than three-year lows, losing 4.3 and 1.8 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, Thailand's benchmark SET index plunged over 4 percent to its lowest level in one and a half years.