Asian Markets Fall, Tokyo Stocks Down for the 9th Session

Japan's Nikkei fell for a ninth straight session Monday as concerns about company earnings outlooks weighed on Asian stocks, while oil languished near a six-week low as faith in a rapid economic recovery faded.

The yen was steady against other major currencies, showing little reaction to the resounding weekend defeat of the Japanese ruling bloc of Prime Minister Taro Aso in a key local election.

The U.S. dollar rose against the yen , inching away from a five-month low of 91.77 yen hit on trading platform EBS on Friday. But the greenback dipped against the euro , with the single European currency rising to regain some of the ground it lost against the dollar on Friday. Oil prices dropped below $60 a barrel, after their biggest weekly decline since late January amid mounting worries that a economic rebound may not be coming soon to help spur flagging fuel demand.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Average closed 2.6 percent, hitting its lowest close in eight weeks, hurt by growing political uncertainty after news that embattled Prime Minister Taro Aso is set to call a general election for Aug. 30. But Kirin Holdings jumped nearly 8 percent and other brewers rose after Suntory Holdings said it was considering a merger with Kirin, which would create one of the world's largest beverage and food firms.

South Korea's KOSPI closed 3.5 percent lower, posting the biggest daily percentage loss in more than four months amid renewed U.S. financial and earnings worries, while North Korean news added to further pressure.

Australian shares fell 1.5 percent on Monday, led down by banks such as National Australia
and Commonwealth Bank on worries that next month's company results season will be a gloomy one.

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Hong Kong shares dropped 2.6 percent, as investors continue to take profit ahead of interim corporate earnings announcements. But China Eastern Airlines soared as much as 14 percent after the money-losing air carrier said it would merge with Shanghai Airlines in a share swap, and issue A shares and H shares worth about 7 billion yuan.

Singapore's Straits Times Index was down 1.8 percent. Evergro Properties, a unit of
Keppel Land, announced a plan to delist from the Singapore exchange by offering $290 ($198.4) for every 1,000 shares tendered in acceptance of the exit offer.

China's Shanghai Composite Index slipped 1.1 percent on news of China State Construction Engineering's upcoming 40.5 billion yuan IPO.