12/02/2008, 00.00
ASIA
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Asian shares follow Wall Street, Tokyo plunges, Shanghai does not

Stock exchanges drop across Asia, with the partial exception of China. Beijing removes price caps on food items imposed in January to fight inflation.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Asian stock markets tumbled on Tuesday following massive losses on Wall Street yesterday. Tokyo shed 6.35 per cent, falling below the critical level of 8,000 points, largest drop in two weeks, partly due to the yen’s rise against the US dollar.

Seoul shares lost 2.1 per cent; Taiwan and Singapore stocks drop respectively by 5 and 2.3 per cent. India's main share index opened down by 3.4 per cent whilst Thailand's benchmark stock index shed 1.37 per cent.

Experts note that the bad trend of the last few months have spooked investors who now tend to react quickly to any negative signal.

In Asia export-oriented companies, starting with the car industry, have suffered the most. Experts doubt they can even meet their lowered profit forecasts.

Oil fell below US$ 50 a barrel after oil producers decided to postpone any decision about cutting production to their next meeting on 17 December in Algiers.

Hong Kong has also hit a rough patch, down by 4.9 per cent, with real estate companies hard hit because of their investments in Thai properties and hotels, which have been affected by that country’s current crisis.

Shanghai is partly bucking the trend. After opening down by 1.99 per cent it ended the day with a loss of just 0.26 per cent with many industrial shares up.

Experts agree that the market reacted positively to the yuan’s depreciation, now at its lowest point against the US dollar in five months. This is expected to help exports to the United States.

Beijing has also decided that as of yesterday the caps imposed in January on a wide range of food items such as meat, grain, cooking oil and milk products would be suspended, and that companies were free to decide pricing. Caps had been imposed because of high inflation but the mainland's consumer price index rose 4 per cent in October from the same month a year ago, down from a 12-year high of 8.7 per cent in February.

“Beijing is setting its sights more closely on how to guard against the deflationary risks,” said Xing Zhiqiang, an analyst for the China International Capital Corp.

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