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Asian markets close sharply down

Japan computers
Tokyo and other Asian markets closed sharply lower on Monday  

TOKYO, Japan -- Asian markets suffered heavy losses Monday, ahead of the restart of U.S. trading.

Tokyo stocks closed sharply lower, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 ending 5 percent down at 9,504.41.

It was its lowest close since December 1983. At one point the Nikkei dropped as low as 9,447.76.

The slide was replicated across the region, with every Asian market in negative territory.

Barring China and Sri Lanka, all exchanges were down at least 2 percent, often much more.

Investors around the globe were steeling against the resumption of U.S. stock trading later in the day. Analysts are still weighing the impact of terrorist attacks on the global economic outlook, too.

Friday's sharp drop on European stock markets and more weakness in early Monday trade also added to investor wariness ahead of an expected fall once New York opens.

If U.S. confidence looks badly rattled by Tuesday's terror attacks on the United States, this inevitably will flow through to other markets.

NYSE chairman Richard Grasso, speaking on CNN television late Sunday, urged investors to "be patient, be prudent. Don't invest for Monday, invest for your needs."

Wall Street has been closed for four trading days -- the longest break since World War One. The Dow Jones industrial average will resume after closing last Monday at 9,605.51, while the Nasdaq will start trading at 1,695.38.

All eyes on Wall Street

HK stocks
Hong Kong stocks eased ahead of Wall Street's opening later on Monday  

While U.S. hedge traders have said they will not sell their funds when the market opens, airlines are likely to be particularly badly hit.

All eyes will watch Wall Street to see how the battle between patriotic fervor and justifiable pessimism plays out.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei ended Monday down 504.48 points. In the morning session it fell as low as 9,447.76, the lowest since December 1983.

The broader capital-weighted TOPIX index ended 37.58 points or 3.63 percent lower at 996.45.

Other Asia-Pacific markets were also weak.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX200 gave up 124.5 points or 5 percent to 2,895.40, to reach its lowest level since November 1999.

Most blue chips were down, included big banks such as National Australia Bank and media heavyweight News Corp.

NAB lost 7.3 percent to A$25.41. News, which relies on the United States for around 70 percent of its sales, fell 8.9 percent to A$12.41.

Like airlines around the region, Qantas dived. Australia's largest carrier fell 13.6 percent to A$2.86.

Gold stocks rose on the merger between producers Delta Gold and Goldfields.

Airline leads Hong Kong down

In New Zealand, Air New Zealand shares slumped more than 40 percent after the collapse and grounding last week of its Australian subsidiary, Ansett.

The NZSE Top 40 ended down 4.55 percent, or 85.43 points, at 1,790.31.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index ended with a 3.4 percent loss at 9,328.74. It's down 10.5 percent since the U.S. attacks.

Hong Kong's largest airline, Cathay Pacific, led the losses. It dropped 10.1 percent Monday to HK$6.25.

But declines were across the board, with Hong Kong's market feeling its close ties to U.S. stocks.

The largest listing, multinational bank HSBC, fell 5.6 percent to HK$75.25.

Telecoms were some of the rare gainers. China Mobile, the leading cell-phone company in mainland China, rose 1.2 percent to HK$21.70.

South Korea better than most

South Korea's market held up better than most. The benchmark Kospi was down 2.8 percent or 13.53 points to 468.76.

Korean Air Lines fell the maximum 15 percent it could in a day, to 4,280 won. Rival Asiana Airlines lost 11.9 percent to 1,180 won.

Singapore ended down 4.7 percent, with the Straits Times index at 1,334.45. That was a slight improvement from an earlier 1,323.64, a low-water mark dating back to February 1999.

In India, Mumbai's Sensex dropped to an eight-year bottom in afternoon trade, hitting 2,644.56. That's its lowest level since November 1993.

It then rallied slightly and was down 5.2 percent at 2,683.63 in late trade.

Taiwan's benchmark Taiex closed Friday down 4.5 percent at 3,774.62. That was its lowest in more than eight years.

But trading was cancelled Monday due to a typhoon.

Reasons to sell

In Tokyo, a firmer yen has been an additional blow to Japanese stocks, weighing on major exporters such as carmakers Toyota and Honda.

"Concerns are mounting over the impact (of the terror attack) on the U.S. economy, and this has come when pessimism is spreading on economic fundamentals in Japan, Tatsuhiko Takura, general manager of investment research at Tokio Marine Asset Management, told Reuters news agency.

"Reasons to sell are not exactly in short supply."

Blue-chip exporters were sharply down on the yen's firm bias and worries that the devastating attacks may slam the brakes on the already slowing economy in the United States, Japan's largest trading partner.

Honda Motor Co. plummeted 10 percent to 3,850 yen while second-biggest Nissan Motor Co Ltd lost 12.2 percent to 539 yen.

Toyota withstood the downturn, losing just 10 yen, or 0.3 percent, to 3,190 yen.

NTT DoCoMo a rare standout

Consumer electronics giant Sony Corp., another big exporter, dropped 7.9 percent to 4,210 yen.

Japan's leading cell-phone carrier, NTT DoCoMo, was a rare standout, putting on 40,000 yen or 3 percent to 1.38 billion yen.

In the banking sector, Mizuho Holdings fell 7.7 percent or 40,000 yen to 478,000 yen. The world's largest bank by assets on Saturday cut its group net forecast for the half year to September to a loss of 260 billion yen ($2.21 billion), from a 90 billion yen profit.

The loss warning followed the collapse of debt-ridden retailer Mycal Corp., which filed for court protection from creditors last week. Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank Ltd, a member of Mizuho, said it could no longer support the retailer.

In all, Mizuho expects to write off 845 billion yen ($7.1 billion) in bad loans for the first half of the year.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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