05/14/2009, 00.00
ASIA
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Asian markets down as fears over exports to US grow

Tokyo and Hong Kong lose almost 3 per cent. US data show drop in retail sales. In China industrial profits plunge 32.3 per cent in first quarter.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Asian stock markets dropped, some by as much as 3 per cent, after US overnight retail sales dropped last month. Export-oriented Asian markets are concerned this might herald even lower demand for exports and cuts in production.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average dropped 2.8 per cent, Hong Kong's Hang Seng plunged 3.3 per cent, South Korea's Kospi shed 2.1 per cent, whilst Taiwan's stock measure lost 1.3 per cent, reversing a nine-week rally.

This recent surge had been driven by governments’ aid and stimulus packages.

A drop in mainland China’s industrial profits is another worrisome sign.

Data for the first quarter of the year show a fall of 32.2 per cent in 22 provinces from a year earlier, representing 78.6 per cent of industrial profits in the country, the National Bureau of Statistics said.

Profits in the first two months of this year were down 39.5 per cent from the corresponding period last year.

The figures cover only firms above a certain size, so they exclude many of the smaller firms that have been hit the hardest by the economic slowdown.

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