Hong Kong: Asian shares closed mostly down on Thursday, with Japanese stocks sliding to a near 19-month low, as investors turned cautious over a cloudy and gloomy global economic outlook.
The falls came even though Wall Street shrugged off fears of a US recession to close up on Wednesday, with investors in Asia apparently still worried the ailing American economy will contribute to a marked global economic slowdown.
Among the region’s major markets, Japan dropped 1.45%, Hong Kong fell 1.4%, South Korea ended down 1.1% and Singapore slipped 1%.
The Indian stock market, which closed at record highs earlier in the week, hit an all-time high during trading, but eventually fell back to close down 1.38%.
Among the smaller markets, Thailand suffered a heavy 2.47% fall over concerns about the global economy and political uncertainty in the wake of elections. Japanese share prices slid and analysts said shares were weighed down by jitters about a stronger yen and a flurry of US corporate results due next week.
Investors were also awaiting a speech later by Federal Reserve chairperson Ben Bernanke, hoping for clues on the prospects for further US interest rate cuts.
The Tokyo Stock Exchange’s benchmark Nikkei-225 index fell 211.05 points to end at 14,388.11—the lowest closing level since 14 June.
The broader Topix index of all first-section shares dropped 22.93 points, or 1.61% to 1,401.36. Decliners outnumbered gainers 1,272 to 373, with 84 issues unchanged.
“There were few buyers at the upper ranges as investors were still trying to gauge how the subprime crisis will affect the US economy,” said Yutaka Miura, senior strategist at Shinko Securities Co. Ltd.
Sentiment was affected by Goldman Sach Group Inc.’s downgrade of Japan’s economic outlook, dealers said. Property developer Mitsui Fudosan Co. Ltd slipped 3.3% to 2,200, tyre maker Bridgestone Corp. shed 2.8% to 1,810, and Mitsubishi Corp. dropped 3.6% to 2,920.
Japan Airlines Corp. gained 2% to 250 after a business daily reported the carrier was seeking a cash infusion. Hong Kong share prices closed 1.4% lower as investors dumped property stocks, dealers said.
The Hang Seng index fell 384.99 points, to 27,230.86, after hitting a low of 27,115.82. “The market was lower due mainly to profit-taking in properties, while China’s price controls also hit oil and power counters,” said Matthew Kwok of Tanrich Securities Co. Ltd.
Kwok said sentiment was affected by property firm Cheung Kong’s share placement news, which prompted a sell-off in the property sector.
Meanwhile, China’s cabinet announced on Wednesday that prices of electricity, natural gas and oil products will not be raised in the near future in an effort to contain surging inflation. China Eastern Airlines Co. Ltd was up nearly 5.9% after Air China Ltd’s parent confirmed that it will submit an offer for China Eastern shares within two weeks after Singapore Airlines’ failed bid.