Hong Kong: Asian stocks fell Monday, extending big losses from last week, as traders fretted over the possibility of a new global recession while in Tokyo exporters tumbled due to concerns over the strong yen.
Brent oil also fell amid news of intense fighting in Tripoli, where rebels said they were a “few hours” from taking the Libyan capital after months of stalemate with Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
And gold hit a new record high as traders seek out somewhere safe to keep their money.
Tokyo fell 1.04%, or 91.11 points, to 8,628.13, its lowest level since 15 March, days after the devastating earthquake-tsunami.
Seoul shed 1.96%, or 34.18 points, to close at 1,710.70 and Sydney lost 0.48%, or 19.6 points, to 4,082.3.
Shanghai closed 0.73%, or 18.50 points, lower at 2,515.86 but Hong Kong staged a late revival and ended up 0.45%, or 86.95 points, at 19,486.87.
The broad losses followed a huge sell-off last week, which was caused by growing pessimism about the outlook for the United States and eurozone.
Those fears sent the yen soaring Friday to a record 75.95 against the dollar.
The greenback’s slump beat its previous post-World War II low of 76.25, which it reached days after the 11 March earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.
In morning European trade the dollar fetched ¥76.76 on expectations the government will intervene in the forex markets, but the rise was not enough to placate traders, who sold exporters.
Toyota Motor tumbled 2.45%, Honda Motor slumped 2.53% and Sony fell 1%.
“At this level, we will still see funds flowing out of exporters and into domestic demand-related stocks,” Takuya Yamada, senior portfolio manager at ITC Investment Partners, said.
The Japanese currency, seen as a safe-haven unit together with the Swiss franc, has attracted purchases amid the deepening concern over faltering growth in the United States and the eurozone’s debt crisis.
Local media reported over the weekend that Japanese authorities are ready to take action against a further surge in the yen, including market intervention. The reports said the central bank is also considering further monetary easing.
Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda stepped up his rhetoric Monday against the yen’s rise. “I’m worried that recent one-sided yen moves have been strengthening,” Noda said, according to Dow Jones Newswires.
“I will take decisive actions if necessary without excluding any possible measures, while watching even more closely if there are any speculative movements,” he told reporters.
Against the Swiss unit, the greenback firmed to 0.7866 francs from 0.7849 in New York.
The Swiss currency strengthened to 1.1323 per euro, compared with 1.1381 francs late Friday in Tokyo.
The euro edged down to $1.4397 from $1.4398. The European common currency was up at ¥110.55 against ¥110.15.
Dealers were looking ahead to a speech by US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke scheduled on Friday for any clues to the central bank’s plan to tackle the economic troubles.
The Dow on Friday shed 1.57%, down 172.93 points to close at 10,817.65. That followed drops in Europe, which extended the previous day’s losses.
However, in early European trade Frankfurt, London and Paris were all higher amid bargain-buying.
Brent crude plunged in Asian trade Monday as traders eyed the possible impact of a rebel victory in Tripoli.
Brent North Sea crude for October delivery dived $2.74 to $105.88 a barrel from Friday’s close.
New York’s main contract, light sweet crude for September delivery slid 78 cents to $81.48 a barrel after rising to above $83 in early morning trade driven partly by concerns over US oil demand.
Before the rebellion began, around 85% of Libya’s daily 1.49 million barrel production went to Europe and Brent has come under selling pressure as a resolution of the crisis will likely see more supplies to the European markets.
Libyan rebels surged into Tripoli Sunday in a final drive to oust Moammar Gadhafi as they seized swathes of the capital and arrested the strongman’s son, Seif al-Islam.
However, senior rebel figure Mahmud Jibril said there were still pockets of resistance in and around Tripoli and warned his forces to be cautious.
“The fight is not over yet,” he said on rebel television Al-Ahrar. “God willing, in few hours our victory will be complete.”
Gold closed in Hong Kong at a new record high of $1,885.00-$1,886.00 an ounce, up from its Asian close on Friday of $1,862.00-$1,863.00.