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Surging Oil, Fading Consumer Demand Rattles Asia

Asian stocks were sharply lower Wednesday as fears about consumer demand in the face of high oil prices rattled investors. Japan closed 1.6 percent lower while Australia shed 1.4 percent.

U.S. light crude climbed to a record $129.60 a barrel on Tuesday, driven by concerns about dwindling global stockpiles. Its rise was given added impetus by a prediction from billionaire investor T. Boone Pickens that the price could hit $150 a barrelin the next six months.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 Average slid 1.65 percent to book a one-week closing low, dragged down by financial shares on lingering credit worries, while a stronger yen pressured exporters such as Toyota Motor.

A man uses his mobile phone in front of electronic stock boards at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX Ltd.) headquarters in Sydney, Australia.
Ian Waldie | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A man uses his mobile phone in front of electronic stock boards at the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX Ltd.) headquarters in Sydney, Australia.

South Korea's KOSPI closed lower for a third consecutive session, shedding 1.3 percent, weighed down by inflation worries after oil hit a new peak and key U.S. producer prices rose more than expected. But tech stocks managed to pull ahead with Samsung Electronics, Hynix Semiconductor and LG Electronics all finishing higher.

Australian shares ended down 1.4 percent as worries that slowing consumer spending in the U.S. may hurt demand for commodities weighed down on miners such as BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, while fresh credit worries pressured financial firms such as Macquarie Group.

Hong Kong stocks closed 1.2 percent higher after a shaky start with oil producer CNOOC enjoying a 5.9 percent jump on the back of record oil prices, which helped to reverse losses on the blue-chip index. China COSCO, the country's largest shipping conglomerate, lost 0.7 percent after JP Morgan downgraded the stock to neutral from overweight on Tuesday on valuation and concerns over a potential downturn in the shipping cycle in 2009.

Singapore's Straits Times Index closed 0.2 percent lower. Financial counters such as DBS Group and United Overseas Bank led the declines.

China's Shanghai Composite Index was down 2.9 percent led by financial shares, as concerns lingered about the impact of last week's devastating earthquake on the world's fourth-largest economy. Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the country's biggest
lender, slid. PetroChina, the benchmark index's most heavily weighted stock, edged down, pressured by rising crude oil prices.

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
OGT
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APRM
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7203.T
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