Stocks lower again on debt, growth fears

<p>Asian stocks continued their negative falls from yesterday despite starting the week in positive territory. Stocks slumped, dragging the region’s benchmark index to a fourth […]</p>

Asian stocks continued their negative falls from yesterday despite starting the week in positive territory. Stocks slumped, dragging the region’s benchmark index to a fourth weekly loss, while oil led commodities lower amid concern the U.S. recovery is faltering and Europe’s debt crisis will spread. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index fell 2.9% at in late afternoon Tokyo trading. S&P500 Index futures slid 0.9%.

More than 12 shares retreated for each one that advanced on the 1,018-member MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which is headed for a 1.9% weekly loss. The four-week losing streak will be the longest stretch of declines since mid June. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average dropped 2.1% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index retreated 3.3%. The Kospi Index saw the largest regional falls, down 5.6% in South Korea, where the exchange halted program trading of shares amid a plunge in futures.

In economic news, Japanese Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said currency market intervention needs to surprise and he’s ready to act to stem gains in the yen that could derail an export led recovery. Earlier attempts to depreciation the yen have so far failed to work. Finance Ministry and central bank officials met yesterday in Tokyo to discuss the yen as the currency approached postwar highs against the dollar, two weeks after authorities last intervened. The yen rose against 15 of its 16 major peers today.

In corporate news, Hong Kong Exchanges – the largest exchange operator by market value – may develop indexes and derivatives with the Shanghai and Shenzhen bourses, it said in a statement. China will start an exchange-traded fund linked to Hong Kong stocks and expand sales of yuan bonds in the city, Li Keqiang, the front- runner to replace Wen Jiabao as China’s premier in 2013, said at an Aug. 17 economic forum in Hong Kong. The move is expected to support stocks listed in Hong Kong.

In energy markets, crude oil for September delivery lost 1.8% to $80.88 a barrel on the NYMEX. Futures slumped 5.9% yesterday. Brent oil for October settlement fell 0.7% to $106.23 a barrel on the London-based ICE Futures Europe exchange. Gold continues its rise towards US$2000 an ounce. Immediate-delivery gold jumped as much as 1.2% to a record $1,844.95 an ounce. Bullion is up 5.4% for the week. That’s the seventh straight weekly gain, the longest winning streak since 2007.

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