Asian markets fall on uncertainty about Chinese economic policy

BEIJING - Chinese and other Asian share markets fell Monday as Wall Street's sharp decline and doubts about China's economic management kept appetite for riskier assets such as stocks in check.

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KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index fell 2.4 per cent to 3,110.72 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 2.6 per cent to 19,916.43. Seoul's Kospi shed 0.6 per cent to 1,905.83 and Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 was off 2 per cent to 4,890.70. Tokyo was closed for a holiday. New Zealand, Singapore and Jakarta also declined.

WALL STREET: U.S. stocks had their worst week in four years following a sell-off sparked by concern China's economy might be slowing. That was despite a relatively healthy U.S. employment report Friday. Industrial and technology companies such as Boeing and Apple that do a lot of business in China fell. Miners including Freeport-McMoRan that supply China with copper and other minerals plunged. On Friday, the Standard & Poor's 500 fell 1.1 per cent and the Dow Jones industrial average and Nasdaq composite both dropped 1 per cent.

CHINA'S WOBBLES: Chinese stocks rebounded Friday but analysts suggested that was due to buying from a group of state entities dubbed the "National Team" that is charged with shoring up share prices. Trading was suspended twice last week after a key index plunged 7 per cent. That sent out global shockwaves and pushed down oil prices. China's stock markets have little connection to the rest of its economy, but their declines focused foreign attention on the slowdown in Chinese growth. The volatile performance of China's stock market has also dented the image of Chinese leaders as competent economic managers.

ANALYST'S TAKE: "Risk sentiment continues to weaken even as recovery in U.S. employment market remains robust," said Citigroup economists in a report. "It is important for investor sentiment that activity data from China delivers to market expectations. Downside surprise may further destabilize sentiment and add to concerns caused by volatility in renminbi and Chinese equities."

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 67 cents to $32.49 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Friday, the contract shed 11 cents to close at $33.16. Brent crude, a benchmark for international oils, fell 66 cents to $32.89 per barrel in London after losing 20 cents to $33.55 on Friday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar edged up to 117.30 yen from Friday's 117.26 yen. The euro declined to $1.0920 from $1.0925.


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