Growth worries rattle Asian markets

Pedestrians pass before a share prices board in Tokyo on Monday.

Story highlights

  • Chinese stocks also weaker amid slowing mainland economy
  • Investors are watching ECB, Bank of England meetings this week
  • Samsung Electronics slides 2.4 percent in afternoon trading
  • Dears of eurozone breakup drags down financial shares

Asian shares tumbled, as investors dumped risky assets, rattled by growing concerns about the global economic recovery and the eurozone's future.

The MSCI Asia Pacific index shed 1.4 pe cent with Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Exchange falling 2 percent to a fresh 2012 intraday low. Tokyo's broader Topix index slid 2.1 percent to levels last seen in late 1983. South Korea's Kospi Composite index dropped 2.3 percent while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index slid 1.6 percent.

Chinese stocks were also weaker, as the slowing mainland economy weighed on sentiment. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slid 2 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite index dropped 1.5 percent.

Risk aversion was heightened by a U.S. jobs reading on Friday that renewed concerns about a U.S. economic relapse while China's slowing manufacturing production and dismal European reports on factory activity sparked concerns about global growth. The U.S. jobless rate rose for the first time in nearly a year to 8.2 pe cent in May, while the smallest increase in payrolls for a year fueled concerns that the U.S. recovery has lost momentum.

"It does now appear that the global slowdown, and events in Europe in particular, are beginning to have a more marked impact on the U.S. economy," said economists at Capital Economics.

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"We may even see more talk of the need for additional quantitative easing," Standard Chartered Bank said in a research note, ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's policy meeting later this month.

Investors are watching for several monetary policy meetings later this week, including the European Central Bank on Wednesday and the Bank of England on Thursday, for policymakers' response to the slowing global economy.

    Exporters lost ground across the board with Japanese companies taking an added hit from a stronger yen. Nikon tumbled 4.8 percent and Sony fell 1.5 percent while Mazda Motor sank 5.2 percent and Toyota Motor shed 3 percent.

    In Seoul, Samsung Electronics, the world's largest technology company by sales, slid 2.4 percent, chipmaker SK Hynix fell 4.4 percent, and flat panel producer LG Display sank 5.2 percent. Clothing chain Esprit Holdings dropped 4.1 percent in Hong Kon, while Li & Fung, a leading supplier to Walmart, gave up 4 percent.

    Renesas Electronics bucked the trend, soaring 18.2 percent in Tokyo after a Nikkei business daily report that the company was in talks with some of its shareholders over a possible restructuring plan that may include debt guarantees and the issuance of subordinated bonds.

    Fears of a eurozone breakup dragged down financial shares with Nomura Holdings off 3.2 percent in Tokyo while in Hong Kong, China Life Insurance fell 3.8 percent and AIA Group shed 4.6 percent. In Sydney, Macquarie Group retreated 3 percent, and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group declined 2.1 percent. KB Financial Group, South Korea's largest consumer lender by sales, slid 1.6 percent in Seoul.

    Resource plays were under pressure as demand concerns pushed commodity prices lower. BHP Billiton, the world's biggest mining company by sales, lost 1.9 percent in Sydney while Woodside Petroleum, Australia's second-largest oil producer, declined 2.2 percent after crude oil prices fell. Fortescue Metals Group was off 3.9 percent, and Rio Tinto surrendered 3.5 pe cent.

    In Hong Kong, energy producer Cnooc sank 3.4 percent, and Aluminum Corp. of China tumbled 4.4 percent. In Shanghai, PetroChina declined 1.3 percent, and Jiangxi Copper slid 2 percent. JX Holdings and Inpex were each down 3.5 percent in Tokyo.

    However, gold producers gained ground after the metal's biggest one-day rally since August in New York on Friday in response to heightened hopes of more quantitative easing from the Fed. Newcrest Mining jumped 3.2 percent and Perseus Mining surged 9.4 percent in Sydney.

    Investors flocked to safer havens such as Japanese government bonds, with the benchmark 10-year JGB yield falling below 0.8 percent to its lowest since July 2003, while 10-year JGB futures prices surged to a 19-month high.

    In the currency markets, the yen was trading at Y78.18 per US dollar after hitting a three-and-a-half-month high of Y77.65 on Friday. It was at Y96.99 per euro after surging to its highest since late 2000 of around Y95.59 on Friday.

    In commodities markets, spot gold pulled back 0.5 percent to $1,616.99 an ounce after Friday's jump. U.S. crude futures slid 1 percent to $82.35 a barre,l while Brent dropped 0.6 percent to $97.83.