Forex Pros - Asian stock markets were sharply lower on Thursday, as concerns over the U.S. economic recovery and steep losses on Wall Street weighed on market sentiment, while the Nikkei dropped amid growing political uncertainty.
During late Asian trade, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slumped 1.55%, South Korea's Kospi Composite fell 1.27%, while Japan's Nikkei 225 Index tumbled 1.7%.
Data on Wednesday showed that U.S. private-sector employment growth slowed sharply last month, while a separate report showed that U.S. manufacturing activity in May slowed to the lowest level since September 2009, fuelling concerns that the U.S. economic recovery was stalling.
Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was expected to face his second vote of no-confidence later in the day, said that he would step down once the country's nuclear crisis was under control, adding to investors' nervousness about the already struggling economy.
Shares in automakers performed poorly after industry data on Wednesday showed that U.S. auto sales in May slumped 8.3% from April. Toyota saw shares tumble 3.25%, Honda fell 2.4%, while shares in Nissan declined 3.2%.
Shares in exporters were also notably lower, with Sony declining 1.75% Canon dropping 1%, while industrial robot maker Fanuc, which gets about 75% of its revenue abroad sank 2.6%.
Elsewhere, in Hong Kong shares in oil producers led losses after oil prices fell below USD100 a barrel.
Oil and gas giant PetroChina saw shares decline 1.85%, China Shenhua Energy slumped 1.35%, while China's largest offshore oil driller CNOOC saw shares fall 2.3%. The world's largest commodities trader Glencore International saw shares tumble 3.5%.
Shares in Cosco Pacific, the Hong Kong-based operator of container facilities in Greece dropped 2.2% as fears over a Greek default continued after Moody's Investors Service slashed Greece's credit rating by three notches.
The outlook for European stock markets was modestly upbeat. The EURO STOXX 50 futures pointed to a gain of 0.2%, France's CAC 40 futures added 0.1%, the FTSE 100 futures edged 0.15% hgher, while Germany's DAX futures indicated a gain of 0.2%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish its weekly report on initial jobless claims, as well as revised data on non-farm productivity and labor costs. The country was also to publish official data on factory orders.