Oil prices hovered below $83 a barrel as investors debated whether weakening economic growth in the U.S. and Europe would undermine global crude demand. The dollar slipped against the yen and the euro.
Markets continued to wobble as investors wrestled with conflicting news about the health of the world’s major economies.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index sank 1.2 percent to 8,930.75, wiping out gains of the previous day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index stumbled 1.7 percent to 19,451.88.
South Korea’s Kospi, vacillating in and out of positive territory, was down 0.2 percent at 1,802.40.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.8 percent to 4,106.80 after earlier dropping about 2 percent.
A few markets eked out gains. China’s Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4 percent to 2,560.12. Benchmarks in New Zealand, India and the Philippines also gained.
On Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 519 points, with selling largely spurred by worries about Europe. American bank stocks took hits because investors fretted that debt problems overseas might reach the United States.
Standard & Poor’s rating agency stripped the U.S. of its AAA credit rating late last week, sending global stocks into a tailspin.
On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve said it planned to keep interest rates ultra-low for two more years since it sees almost no chance that the U.S. economy will improve substantially by 2013.
A strengthening yen, meanwhile, clobbered Japan’s crucial export sector.
Honda Motor Corp. lost 2.6 percent, while Nissan Motor Corp. stumbled 3.5 percent. Toyota, Mazda and Sukuzi Motor Corps. each fell more than 1 percent. Consumer electronics giants also slid — Sony Corp. by 2.6 percent and Panasonic Corp. by 2.1 percent.
In Sydney, Telstra Corp., Australia’s largest telecommunications company, rose 4.8 percent after reporting after forecasting slight improvements in both earnings and revenue in the year ahead. The Melbourne-based company said it had strong 16 percent growth in mobile phone customers.
Australian gold miner Newcrest Mining gained 3.8 percent, benefiting from the surge in gold prices. Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group, China’s biggest gold miner, rose 3.2 percent.
The Dow closed Wednesday at 10,719.94, down 4.6 percent. By points, it was the ninth-steepest decline for the market. The S&P 500 finished the day down 4.4 percent and the Nasdaq composite index down 4.1 percent.
In Asia, a key concern is that higher inflation in China could lead to slower growth.
Inflation in the world’s second-largest economy rose to a 37-month high in July, adding to pressure on Chinese leaders to cool living costs while keeping economic growth on track as the U.S. and European outlook worsens.
However, China also reported robust trade growth in July, suggesting that its economy is relatively healthy.
Additionally, some analysts said upcoming jobs and retail sales data from the U.S. later this week would offer a much needed respite from plummeting markets. Weekly jobless claims will be released later Thursday, followed by retail sales Friday.
“Perhaps some actual data might calm things down? Jobless claims are on tap today and a good number … would surely offer a bit of respite to markets,” analysts at DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a report.
Retail sales, coming on the heels of a recent surge in auto sales, would be even “more likely to have a calming effect,” the report said.
Benchmark oil for September delivery was down 19 cents to $82.70 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude rose $3.59, or 4.5 percent, to settle at $82.89 on Wednesday.
In London, Brent crude was down 63 cents to $106.05 per barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.
In currencies, the dollar weakened to 76.57 yen from 76.83 yen late Wednesday in New York. The euro rose to $1.4216 from $1.4208.
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Category: Business/ Economy
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