Asia-Pacific Stocks Fall on China Plunge

Stock markets around the Asia-Pacific region opened sharply lower Wednesday after a dizzying sell-off in China sent global markets into a tailspin.

Japanese share prices tumbled 3.56 percent in morning trade Wednesday, tracking a rout on global markets on fears of a US economic slowdown and concern over China's possible stock bubble.

The Tokyo Stock Exchange's benchmark Nikkei-225 index of leading shares fell 644.85 points in the morning session to 17,475.07.

Earlier this week, the world's second largest bourse had registered near seven-year highs on optimism over the Japanese economy.

The TOPIX index of all first-section companies dived 70.36 points or 3.88 percent to 1,740.97 by the break.

Singapore also opened down 4.82 percent lower, in line with continued falls in regional markets.

The Straits Times Index opened down 155.89 points or 4.82 percent at 3,076.13.

Blue chips were among the big losers, including Singapore Airlines, down 4.32 percent and Singapore Press Holdings down 4.37 percent in early trade.

Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp was 5.17 percent lower and Venture Corp was down 4.93 percent.

Najeeb Jarhom, head of research at Fraser Securities, said that since Monday the Index had dropped about seven percent, compared with a mid-year correction of about 15 percent spread over about six weeks last year.

"I think this mini-crash could be over quickly," he said.

World stock markets fell sharply Tuesday in the worst selloff in years as concern mounted about a US economic slowdown and the health of the Chinese share markets.

Chinese share prices saw their steepest one-day drop in a decade Tuesday, tumbling 8.84 percent in Shanghai amid concerns the market was overdone after soaring to historical highs, dealers said.

"Who's behind the rumours in China? Maybe the hedge funds," Jarhom said.

In Australia the benchmark SP/ASX 200 was down 3.02 percent at 5,813.0 at 10:25 am (1125 GMT) while the broader All Ordinaries index plummeted 3.14 percent to 5,789.7, following the lead of Wall Street overnight.

The losses were the biggest recorded on Australia's booming market since September 17, 2001, days after the September 11 attacks on US targets.

The biggest loser on the Australian market was mining giant BHP Billiton, which has extensive dealing with China, which shed 5.44 percent within minutes of the bell.

But analysts said the fall, which came just 36 hours after the market closed at new record highs on Monday, was a correction that was well overdue, and urged investors not to panic.

Malaysian share prices opened more than eight percent lower Wednesday, among the sharpest falls in key regional markets.

The key Kuala Lumpur Composite Index plunged 101.07 points or 8.17 percent to 1,136.01 in the first minutes of trade.

Key blue chips saw heavy losses as spooked investors rushed to sell, dealers said.

A senior dealer said the selling was an over-reaction and he expected some recovery.

"It's obviously the effect of China's fall and then the Dow Jones was also badly hit and in New York as well. Most of the Asian bourses are also down," said the dealer.

Philippine share prices opened 8.0 percent lower Wednesday on a knee-jerk reaction over tumbling Asian stocks, brokers said.

Hong Kong share prices fell sharply Wednesday, down 3.58 percent in early trade amid overnight sell-offs on bourses around the world.

The benchmark Hang Seng Index slumped 720.9 points to 19,426 in early trade.

South Korean shares opened sharply lower Wednesday as overnight losses in Chinese and US markets weighed heavily on the bourse, analysts said

The KOSPI index dropped 57.10 points, or 3.93 percent, to 1,397.50 in the first 15 minutes of trading.

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index opened 268.54 points lower at 3,062.75. The sell-off was across the board as jittery investors cashed in on recent gains.

"Investors are jittery all over the place," said Francisco Liboro, president of PCCI Securities.

The drop came after the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 3.29 percent, or 416.02 points, to close at 12,216.24, suffering its worst losses since September 11, 2001.

Source AFP

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