Japanese market drops as Asian stocks extend global sell-off

Asian markets tumbled Tuesday as renewed jitters about the global economy set off a wave of selling in banking stocks.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 dived 5.1 per cent to 16,132.25 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 2.6 per cent to 4,946.70. Markets were also down in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and New Zealand. China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea were closed for Lunar New Year holidays. Among banking stocks, National Bank of Australia was down 5.8 per cent in Sydney and Mizuho Financial sank 5.1 per cent in Tokyo.

GLOBAL NERVES: Stock markets have been slump so far this year after a lacklustre 2015. Several factors have kept investors in a selling mood, including falling crude oil prices, waning growth in major economies and the prospect of Federal Reserve rate hikes after several years of ultra-easy monetary policy. Tuesday's sell-off in Asia followed a wave of selling in Europe that was concentrated in the more financially shaky countries. The stock index in Spain was off roughly 4 per cent, while Italy's lost about 5 per cent. Greece's index sank about 8 per cent.

THE QUOTE: "The gut-wrenching sell off in European and U.S. markets overnight means regional investors are looking for a market to sell," said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. "Banks are wearing the brunt of the selling. The explanation varies from the credible - high index weight - to the loopy - energy company exposures - but the sector pressure is real," he said in a market commentary.

WALL STREET: Wall Street rode another wave of selling Monday that sent U.S. stocks sharply lower, before a late-afternoon pullback stemmed some of the losses. The Dow fell 177.92 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 16,027.05. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 26.61 points, or 1.4 per cent, to 1,853.44. The Nasdaq composite dropped 79.39 points, or 1.8 per cent, to 4,283.75. The index is within 110 points of being in what Wall Street considers a bear market, or a 20 per cent drop from its high.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. oil was up 40 cents at $30.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.20, or 3.9 per cent, to close at $29.69 a barrel in New York on Monday. Brent crude was up 22 cents at $33.10 in London. The contract dropped $1.18, or 3.5 per cent, to close at $32.88 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The euro rose to $1.1214 from $1.1186 the day before. The dollar fell to 114.90 yen from 115.58 yen.


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