Asian stock markets down amid recovery woes

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets retreated Monday as evidence mounted that recoveries in the world’s biggest economies have hit a roadblock.

Oil prices fell below $99 a barrel, extending a big loss on Friday after a report said Saudi Arabia plans to boost its crude production. In currencies, the dollar was stronger against the yen and the euro.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 0.8 percent to 9,436.49 after the government reported that core machinery orders fell unexpectedly in April by 3.3 percent from the previous month.

The drop came as companies canceled orders following a devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan that destroyed or damaged scores of factories.

The decline was the first in four months, evidence that the twin disasters continue to take their toll on Japan’s economy. The seasonally adjusted figure includes heavily electrical machinery, engines, machine tools, road vehicles and aircraft but excludes orders for ships and utilities because of their volatility.

Toyota Motor Corp. dropped 2.6 percent after announcing Friday that it expected its annual profit to dive 31 percent, hammered by production disruptions from parts shortages.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.8 percent to 22,245.98, with blue chip property shares slumping after Hong Kong Monetary Authority Chief Executive Norman Chan announced further measures to cool property prices. Buyers of homes costing less than Hong Kong $7 million will have to make a 30 percent down payment, while the minimum payment was increased to 50 percent for homes costing HK$10 million or more.

China Overseas Land and Investment dropped 1.9 percent, while China Resources Land fell 2.3 percent.

Linus Yip, a strategist at First Shanghai Securities in Hong Kong, said expectations of another rate hike in China were the main drag on markets. But he said shares in Hong Kong, which have been steadily down in seven prior sessions, were possibly oversold and due for a recovery.

“I think maybe they are oversold,” he said. “I think there is a possibility for Hong Kong to hit a short-term bottom and actually rebound within a week.”

South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.9 percent to 2,028.29, following a move Friday by the country’s central bank to raise its key interest rate for the fifth time in less than a year as it keeps up a battle against inflation. Investors tend to view rate hikes negatively since they make it harder to brow money, thus stifling growth.

Fears that China was preparing to raise interest rates for a fifth time since October dampened sentiment for mainland shares.

“Although the economy is slowing down in general, the room for authorities to relax tightening policies is limited because inflation is still hovering at an elevated level,” DBS Bank Ltd. in Singapore said in a report.

The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.3 percent, with oil-related shares sagging amid expectations of a price drop for crude. China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, lost 1.8 percent.

Benchmarks in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand also sank.

Adding to the gloom is the recession in Japan that resulted from the earthquake. Among other woes, the disaster resulted in a scarcity of key parts that disrupted manufacturing around the globe.

In the U.S., the economy isn’t growing as quickly as expected due in part to high prices. Since the market’s peak on April 29, more than 15 economic indicators, ranging from the number of new jobs added in May to how much consumers are spending at retailers, have been weaker than analysts had predicted.

On Wall Street on Friday, fears that the global economic recovery has stalled pushed the Dow Jones industrial average below 12,000 for the first time since March and drove the stock market lower for the sixth straight week. The Dow fell 1.4 percent to close at 11,951.91. The S&P 500 index fell 1.4 percent to 1,270.98. The Nasdaq dropped 1.5 percent to 2,643.73.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down 31 cents to $98.98 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $2.64 to settle at $99.29 on the Nymex on Friday.

The euro weakened to $1.4340 from $1.4355 in late trading in New York. The euro has fallen below its recent highs on signs that European policymakers have reached an impasse over how to handle Greece’s drawn-out debt crisis. The dollar strengthened to 80.53 yen from 80.32 yen.

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