HONG KONG - Asian stocks fell heavily on Thursday, following an overnight tumble on Wall Street driven by another spike in oil prices and new inflation worries.
Dealers said more glum news from the Federal Reserve about the US economy also fuelled the decline. Tokyo closed 2.08 percent off and Sydney fell 2.5 percent, while Hong Kong was 1.3 percent down.
Shares in China lost 2.21 percent, clawing back some morning losses that had seen a 3.25 percent slide. Other Asian markets were also in the red, with Taiwan 3.4 percent off and Singapore 0.87 down.
Soaring food and fuel costs have set off global inflation concerns, with crude hovering near the 140 dollar per barrel level.
Oil fell in Asian trade despite the fact that US crude reserves dipped for the fourth straight week, but trade was volatile and analysts expected prices to keep rising in the near-term.
The price jumped more than five dollars in New York on Wednesday to above 135 dollars, spurring a US sell-off. The Dow Jones dropped 1.7 percent, the Nasdaq shed 2.2 percent and the S&P 500 lost 1.7 percent.
In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei-225 index closed 2.08 percent down at 13,888.60 while the broader Topix was off 1.93 percent at 1,363.14.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 2.5 percent to 5329.2, while the All Ordinaries lost 2.3 percent to 5433.2.
Only stocks in India, up 0.43 percent, and Indonesia, rising 0.11 percent bucked Thursday's downward trend.
TOKYO: Japanese shares closed 2.08 percent down after Wall Street tumbled overnight as a fresh spike in crude oil prices hit sentiment, dealers said.
The benchmark Nikkei-225 index lost 294.88 points to 13,888.60, ending below the key 14,000 points level. The broader Topix index of all first-section shares dropped 26.89 points or 1.93 percent to 1,363.14.
Developments overseas were pulling down shares, said Daisuke Uno, chief market strategist of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.
"Investors are selling following falls in the US and European markets," Uno said. "The Japanese stock market has been volatile recently."
Exporters were weaker on profit-taking and worries about the impact of the US economic slowdown on their earnings.
Toyota Motor lost 2.7 percent to 5,400 yen and Sony fell 2.8 percent to 5,130.
Bank shares were pressured by fresh worries about the fallout from the US subprime loan crisis. Mizuho Financial Group ended down 3.1 percent at 532,000.
HONG KONG: Hong Kong share prices closed down 1.3 percent, dealers said.
The Hang Seng Index ended 303.74 points at 23,023.86 off a low of 22,695.10 and a high of 23,023.86. It was the index's lowest closing figure since April 1.
Stocks fell across the board with blue chip infrastructure group Cheung Kong one of the worst hit, falling 2.35 percent. Shares in Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific fell on continuing worries about the high cost of fuel.
The high oil prices also put pressure on Chinese refiners. Sinopec fell 1.5 percent to 7.44 dollars and PetroChina dropped 1 percent to 10.22 dollars.
Among the few blue-chip stocks to buck the market's fall were China Unicom and China Netcom, after Goldman Sachs advised investors to switch into them from rival China Mobile.
SYDNEY: Australian shares closed 2.5 percent lower, dealers said.
The benchmark SP/ASX200 index fell 138.1 points to 5329.2, while the broader All Ordinaries lost 128.7 points to 5433.2.
ABN Amro Morgans private client adviser Peter Knight said stocks exposed to high oil prices or the US economy lost ground and the major banks were also weaker.
"It's just sentiment really," Knight said. "It's economic uncertainty."
He noted the heavy fall of investment firm Babcock and Brown, down 27 percent to 6.90, as speculation mounted that hedge funds were targeting the stock and selling it off amid concern over its debt levels.
Among banks, ANZ lost 4.1 percent to 19.57 and National Australia Bank fell 4.0 percent to 27.64. Westpac dropped 3.5 percent to 21.47 and Commonwealth Bank of Australia shed 2.9 percent to 41.61.
Resources giant BHP Billiton fell 3.8 percent to 41.80, Rio Tinto lost 1.7 percent to 129.88 and Fortescue was down 2.9 percent at 9.40.
SHANGHAI: Chinese stocks closed 2.21 percent lower as the expected slowdown in May inflation failed to boost sentiment after recent steep falls, dealers said.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, closed down 66.71 points at 2,957.53 on turnover of 56.8 billion yuan (8.2 billion dollars).
The Shanghai A-share Index lost 70.29 points or 2.22 percent at 3,102.13 on turnover of 56.6 billion yuan. The Shenzhen A-share Index fell 12.80 points or 1.35 percent at 933.40 on turnover of 27.7 billion yuan.
TAIPEI: Taiwan shares closed 3.4 percent lower, dealers said.
The weighted index closed down 283.28 points at 8,062.31 on turnover of 124.86 billion Taiwan dollars (4.11 billion US).
"The sharp decline of Wall Street and the concerns over record highs in oil prices dealt another blow to the fragile market," said Chen Yu-yu of Capital Securities.
The construction sector shed 5.2 percent, textiles fell 3.8 percent and financials lost 3.5 percent. Electronics was off 3.4 percent and plastics/petrochemicals were 2.76 down percent.
SEOUL: South Korean share prices fell 2.4 percent to a 10-week low after the central bank froze its key interest rate, warning that the risk of inflation outweighs that of an economic slowdown.
The KOSPI index ended down 42.31 points at 1,739.36, the weakest level since April 1 when it closed at 1,702.25.
The Bank of Korea (BoK) kept its key rate unchanged at 5.0 percent for the 10th straight month.
"Inflation is becoming a major threat to the economy and the BoK has confirmed it," said Won Jong-Hyuk, an analyst at SK Securities.
Hana Financial Group rose 3.4 percent to 43,850 won after saying that its subsidiary Hana Bank received 200 billion won in refunds from tax authorities.
SK Telecom rallied 2.5 percent to 184,500 as investors favoured defensive stocks.
But high-tech stocks slumped on fears of slower US sales and heavy industry issues were hit by concerns about the Chinese economy.
Samsung Electronics fell 2.6 percent to 663,000 and Hynix skidded 6.3 percent to 29,200.
SINGAPORE: Singapore share prices closed 0.87 percent lower in subdued trading which saw the main Straits Times Index (STI) dip below the psychologically important 3,000 points level, dealers said.
The blue chip STI closed 26.62 points lower at 3,020.15 on volume of 1.27 billion shares worth 1.56 billion Singapore dollars (1.14 billion US).
DMG & Partners Securities said the thin volume is "a clear indicator that traders are fearful of more bad news to come and many are taking the opportunity to offload now to be ready for the next U-turn."
Banks ended lower, with DBS Group losing 14 cents to 19.34 dollars, United Overseas Bank down two cents at 19.16 dollars and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp slipping two cents to 8.29 dollars.
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian share prices closed down 0.3 percent amid a decline on regional markets and local concern over rising inflation, dealers said.
The Kuala Lumpur Composite Index fell 3.74 points to 1225.54.
"Market sentiment was weighed down by the rebound in crude oil prices, declines in regional markets and concerns over rising inflation," a dealer told Dow Jones Newswires.
"The contraction in volume traded underscores investors' weak sentiment. The KLCI is likely to continue consolidating within the 1214-1230 range tomorrow," he added.
Among index heavyweights, Malaysia's state linked telecommunications company Telekom was up 4 sen to 3.18 ringgit while the country's biggest bank in terms of assets, Maybank, was down 5 sen at 7.30 ringgit as power giant Tenaga dropped 5 sen to 8.45 ringgit.
BANGKOK: Thai shares closed 0.11 percent lower as the market fell in line with a sell-off across Asia, dealers said.
They said worries over high inflation driven by high oil prices as well as Thai political concerns dampened market sentiment.
The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) composite index slipped 0.86 points to close at 790.80, while the blue-chip SET 50 index edged down 0.10 points to 566.04.
"Investors remain concerned over rising inflation driven by high oil prices," said Pichai Lertsupongkit, senior vice president at Thanachart Securities.
Energy shares, however, made heavy gains.
PTT rose 6.00 baht to close at 326.00 baht, while its subsidiary PTT Exploration and Production gained 2.00 to 182.00.
JAKARTA: Indonesian shares closed 1.4 percent higher, dealers said.
The Jakarta Composite Index ended up 34.22 points at 2,409.01 on volume of 3.46 billion shares worth 6.52 trillion rupiah (704.16 million dollars).
"Today the market was driven upward especially by mining and plantation stocks," said Pardomuan Sihombing, a dealer at Paramitra Alfa Sekuritas.
"Trading activity is quiet as the market still expects the pair to trade within a tight range today. Bank Indonesia will likely be in the market to reduce volatility," a dealer told Dow Jones Newswires.
Bumi Resources ended up 6.2 percent at 8,550 rupiah, Bukit Asam gained 1.4 percent at 15,000 and Indika added 1.5 percent at 3,475.
MANILA: Philippine share prices closed 1.3 percent lower, analysts told AFP.
The composite index lost 34.39 points to the day's low of 2,544.89.
The all-shares index gave up 19.46 points to 1,619.62.
Jose Vistan of AB Capital Securities said "inflationary pressures, not just here, but across the globe are growing due to the rising cost of energy."
He said the pressure was more intense in the Philippines due to its dependence on imported oil, which in turn pushes up prices of basic commodities and puts pressure on interest rates.
"One problem is snowballing into another," he told AFP.
Philippine Long Distance Telephone fell 15 pesos to 2,320 while Ayala Corp. dropped 7.50 pesos to 282.50.
WELLINGTON: New Zealand share prices closed 1.38 percent lower, dealers said.
The NZX-50 gross index fell 48.21 points to 3,439.22 on turnover worth 140.3 million dollars (105.8 million US).
"Investor confidence in markets remains a problem. That's rolled over into New Zealand today for sure," said Nigel Scott of ABN Amro Craigs.
"Markets just don't seem to be in a mode to bounce out of the low days. They might go quiet, but they're not bouncing like they have been (previously)," Scott said.
Third-ranked Fletcher Building lost 14 cents to 7.00 dollars, almost half its record high of 13.10 last July.
Real estate sales statistics on Wednesday showed the housing market was depressed, as is the case in other Fletcher markets in Australia, the US and Britain.
MUMBAI: Indian shares closed 0.43 percent up in volatile trade, dealers said.
The benchmark Mumbai 30-share Sensex index rose 64.88 points to 15,250.2, recovering from the day's low of 14,747.99.
"The markets were negative on the repo rate hike but recovered as positive industrial production data come through," said Advait Date, a dealer with brokerage BHH Securities.
The Reserve Bank of India said it was raising its repo rate, at which commercial banks borrow funds from the central bank, from 7.75 percent effective immediately.
Drug firm Ranbaxy Laboratories fell 17.3 rupees or 3.08 percent to 543.5 after Japanese pharmaceutical group Daiichi Sankyo Co. on Wednesday said it had agreed to buy a majority stake in Ranbaxy for up to 4.6 billion dollars.