Yuri Kageyama / AP
Tokyo: Asian and European shares dipped Wednesday, 15 August, as markets continued to battle jitters over a credit crunch started by problems in the US subprime loan sector and as broader concerns emerged about the US economy.
In Asia, Tokyo and New Zealand benchmarks tumbled to their lowest closes in nine months. In Europe in morning trade, the UK’s FTSE 100 index fell 0.9%, France’s CAC 40 benchmark fell 1.3%, and Germany’s DAX fell 0.7%.
In Asia, some economists said the gyrations on stock markets were short-term. Some issues could even be good bargains, given the strong growth and earnings data from China, Japan and other regional economies.
The Nikkei 225 stock index, the benchmark for Asia’s biggest stock market, plummeted 369.00 points, or 2.19%, to 16,475.61, its lowest since 8 December.
Japanese export issues also took a battering from the strong yen. Worries have been growing about a slowdown in the US economy, fueled by faltering profit forecasts by major retailers.
Weak American spending would be a blow to the Japanese and other Asian economies, which are all still heavily dependent on exports to the US.
In New Zealand, the NZX-50 index slipped below the psychological 4,000 barrier before ending down 1.5% at 4,004.46, ts lowest closing since December 2006.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 2.9% to 21,375.72, and Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 3.4% to close at 3,273.25. The benchmark index in the Philippines closed 4.1%lower and Taiwan’s Weighted Price Index fell 3.6%.
Traders in Tokyo said bargain-hunting there may keep Japanese stocks from plunging too much. Some analysts also say market sentiment in Tokyo remains upbeat as worries about subprime mortgages in the U.S. may make it less likely the Bank of Japan will raise interest rates later in the month.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan’s economy remains on a growth track. Earlier this week, the government reported that the world’s second largest economy marked its 10th straight quarter of expansion April-June, although the pace of growth had moderated.
“The Japanese economy remains strong,” Abe told reporters. “We do need to keep a close watch.”
But fears remain about the future of the overall US economy. Tuesday, US retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Home Depot Inc. announced lower profit forecasts. A slowdown in the US economy, a key export market for Asia, could spell a more real danger for the region.
Overnight in the US, the Dow shed 1.57% to 13,028.92, on the verge of falling below the psychologically important 13,000 mark, which it first crossed in late April.
Elsewhere in Asia on Wednesday, Jakarta’s main stock index fell 6.4%; Thailand’s index was off 2% in late trade. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 fell 3% to close at 5,788.0.
In Shanghai, where the index has hit seven record high closes this month amid the global turmoil, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.1% to 4,869.88.
Stock markets were closed in India and South Korea for national holidays.