Asian Stocks Sink on Fears of Global Recession

Asian stocks sink; Sony drops on earnings revision

Asian stocks tumbled for a third day Friday on growing alarm that a global recession will eat into corporate profits. Shares of Sony sank more than 14 percent after it slashed its earnings forecast for the fiscal year.

The dollar plunged below 95 yen, a 13-year low, as traders reacted to dismal U.S. jobs data that spurred speculation the Federal Reserve might cut interest rates.

The combination of the two — the yen's surge and Sony's revision — unnerved investors in Tokyo, who dumped shares of exporters like Toyota, Sony and Panasonic.

Sony's earnings revision "was yet another indicator that the global economy is really slowing," said Yutaka Miura, senior strategist at Shinko Securities in Tokyo. "Investors remain worried over growing uncertainty about the state of the global economy."

Asian markets seemed to shrug off a rebound Thursday in European markets and on Wall Street.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average slid 9.6 percent to 7,649, its first close below 8,000 since May 2003. For the week, the Nikkei lost 12 percent.

The dollar fell as low as 94.75 yen, the lowest since August 1995. A strong yen erodes Japanese exporters' earnings.

"Dollar-selling seems unstoppable. Investors continue to dump the dollar due to ongoing worries over the slowing U.S. economy," said Ikkou Takahashi, currency dealer at Mizuho Bank.

South Korea's stock market also fell sharply as foreign investors fled the country's stock market and figures showed the economy there was slowing. The Kospi dropped 10.6 percent to 938.75, falling below the 1,000 mark for the first time in more than three years.

For the week, the Kospi has fallen 20.5 percent, its worst since records began to be kept in 1987. For the year, the index is down just over 50 percent, a sharp reversal of the bull market in Korean stocks.

Earlier Friday, figures showed that South Korea's economic growth slowed to 3.9 percent in third quarter, the slowest rate in three years.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng fell 6.6 percent to 12,853. Markets in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were also down sharply as investors bailed from emerging markets around the world to cut their exposure to risky assets and meet redemption needs at home. On Thursday, key indices in Russia, Brazil and Mexico also fell.

"Funds are pouring out of emerging markets," said Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong. "A lot of money that flowed into the region during the last five years from the U.S. and Europe is being cashed out. The global crisis has come to Asia."

In Tokyo, dollar-selling intensified as traders reacted to bleak new numbers on the U.S. job market Thursday that showed unemployment claims rising even faster than expected, spurring speculation the Fed might cut rates to help shore up the sagging U.S. economy.

The number of new applications for unemployment insurance rose 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 478,000, above analysts' estimates of 470,000. Jobless claims above 400,000 are considered a sign of recession.

Electronics giant Sony Corp. plummeted 14.1 percent to 1,972 yen after it cut its annual profit and sales forecasts, blaming deteriorating sales of flat-panel TVs and other gadgets as well as the strong yen.

Sony said Thursday afternoon its net profit for the fiscal year through March 2009 would likely drop 59 percent from the previous year to 150 billion yen ($1.5 billion). Previously, it had expected to post 240 billion yen ($2.4 billion) in profit for the fiscal year.

Panasonic Corp. lost 12 percent and Toyota Motor Corp., shed 6.4 percent.

Overnight in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 2 percent to 8,691.25, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index rose and the Nasdaq fell.

Oil fell in Asian trade Friday, with light, sweet crude for December delivery down $1.26 to $66.54 a barrel.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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