Asia shares down amid Irish debt, China jitters

Asia shares down amid Irish debt, China jitters

Tokyo: Asian stock markets retreated on Wednesday, extending a global sell-off triggered by Europe’s simmering debt crisis and expectations China will raise interest rates again to tame inflation.

Sentiment was cautious as an anxiously awaited meeting of European finance ministers ended without an agreement to bail out debt-stricken Ireland. But European Union officials said they have “intensified" preparations for potential support for the country’s troubled banking sector. That gave the euro a boost against the dollar after it tumbled the day before.

Speculation that China will take more steps to rein in its red-hot economy after inflation hit a 25-month high in October also kept Asian markets in check.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average lost 0.5% to 9,746.09 and China’s Shanghai Composite Index slid 1.3% to 2,856.15.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 0.6% to 23,544.79 and Australia’s ASX/S&P 200 was off 1.4% at 4,633.60 while South Korea’s Kospi rose less than 0.1% to 1,900.14.

Elsewhere, markets in Taiwan and New Zealand fell. Singapore and Malaysia were closed for holidays.

Resource companies took a big hit around the region as commodity prices fell overnight. Australian miner Rio Tinto Ltd. tumbled 3% in Sydney while rival BHP Billiton Ltd. fell 2%.

In New York Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 178.47, or 1.6%, to 11,023.50, hit by jitters over European debt and Chinese inflation. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 19.41, or 1.6%, to 1,178.34, while the Nasdaq composite index fell 43.98, or 1.8%, to 2,469.84.

Concerns that Ireland will be unable to pay the cost of rescuing its banks _ which ran into trouble when the country’s real estate boom collapsed has worsened Europe’s government debt crisis.

Markets have pushed up borrowing costs for other vulnerable nations such as Portugal and Spain and threatened to destabilize the common euro currency.

There was speculation that Ireland’s government might be forced to take a bailout like the one that saved Greece from defaulting on its bonds in May. A €750 billion backstop stands ready from other countries that use the euro.

In currencies, the dollar fell to ¥83.32 from ¥83.39 late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.3507 from $1.3479.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was up 3 cents at $82.37 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.52, or 3%, to settle at $82.34 on Tuesday.