Asian shares down, Nikkei tumbles, as Ukraine, China econ weigh


Shutterstock photo - - Japanese stocks tumbled Friday, with the Nikkei on track for its worst week since August, as evidence China's economy is slowing sharply and rising tensions in the Ukraine fuel jitters.

The Nikkei lost 2.7% in early trade as slower-than-expected growth in Chinese industrial production and retail sales came out just before some markets closed in the previous session, giving Japan and South Korea little time to react.

It was a similar story in Australia, where stocks stopped trading on Thursday before the Chinese data was released. On Friday, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.4%.

South Korea's Kospi was down 0.7%.

Chinese data out at the weekend showed a sharp decline in exports in February, raising concerns over the health of the world's second-largest economy. There were also jitters in the corporate sector, with fears that another solar company could default, just a week after China experienced its first default in its corporate debt market.

This has translated into poor performance for the week, especially for markets linked to China. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index is 4% lower since last Friday and the S&P/ASX 200 - a market heavy with resource companies that sell to China - fell 2.3%.

Japan was affected the most from the downbeat sentiment, and the Nikkei was down 5.6% over the same period.

Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.41%, the S&P 500 index fell 1.17%, while the Nasdaq Composite index fell 1.46%

News reports that Russia is conducting new military exercises in the Crimea region of Ukraine sparked demand for safe-haven asset classes, the dollar and yen especially, bruised equities markets worldwide.

Tensions between Russia and the West have remained high ahead of Sunday's referendum in Ukraine's Crimea region, controlled by pro-Russian forces, on whether citizens there want to join Russia.

Leaders of the Group of Seven largest industrial nations warned Russia on Wednesday not to annex Crimea.

In a recent joint statement, the leaders said Russian annexation of Crimea "could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states."

Should Russia take the step, the G-7 said it would respond with further action "individually and collectively."

European indices, meanwhile, finished lower Thursday.

After the close of European trade, the EURO STOXX 50 fell 1.35%, France's CAC 40 fell 1.29%, while Germany's DAX 30 fell 1.86%. Meanwhile, in the U.K. the FTSE 100 fell 1.01%.

On Friday, the U.S. is to round up the week with data on producer price inflation and preliminary data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment. offers an extensive set of professional tools for the financial markets.
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This article appears in: Investing , Forex and Currencies

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