Escalating violence in Middle East rocks Asian markets; BHP buys into shale gas

<p>Asian markets were down today on the back of escalating violence and uncertainty in the Middle East. Both the Japanese Nikkei and the Hong Kong […]</p>

Asian markets were down today on the back of escalating violence and uncertainty in the Middle East.

Both the Japanese Nikkei and the Hong Kong Hang Seng indices were down around 1.9%.

In Japan all sectors were down with Financials leading the falls. Big fallers today were Sumco Corp and Credit Saison Co both down around 5%.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index saw its biggest drop in almost 2 weeks as developers retreated on speculation the City’s government may increase land supply in tomorrow’s budget announcement. Hang Lung Properties which gets about 84% of its revenue from Hong Kong, declined 2.3%. Sino Land Co, a Hong Kong developer controlled by billionaire Robert Ng, slid 2.6%.

In Australia, the local share market fell sharply lower today as it failed to recover lost ground since this morning.

We were only a few points down this morning, but we saw a quick turn in sentiment and the losses piled up this afternoon.

Most of the local sectors were down today. Losses were across the board. The Materials sector, led by BHP Billiton, was holding up a bit better. But this is not enough to give any support to the local index.

BHP Billiton was a standout today and was showing gains of as much as 3 per cent this morning. The share price move came after the company announced it will buy the shale gas assets of Chesapeake Energy Corporation in the US.

It is a very strategic move for BHP. This gives them (BHP) a head start into this new source of energy (shale gas). Shale gas is being considered as a good replacement for crude oil. The acquisition will also give BHP an entry point into the US as it seeks to expand its geographic presence and resources base.

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