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ASIA: Asian markets retreat for the seventh week in eight

REGIONAL ROUNDUP The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index fell to its lowest close since May 2004 this week, led by measures of commodity and electronics companies

BLOOMBERG AND AFP , TAIPEI AND HONG KONG

Asian stocks dropped for the seventh week in eight, sending the region’s benchmark index to the lowest level since 2004, on signs profits are declining as the credit crisis worsens.

Sony Corp, maker of the PlayStation game consoles, slumped 19 percent to the lowest in 13 years after slashing its profit forecast on weaker demand for electronics and the surging yen. Samsung Electronics Co led South Korea’s KOSPI Index to its biggest weekly drop in at least two decades after its profit tumbled and as the government stepped up measures to shore up the nation’s financial system. Newcrest Mining Ltd, Australia’s largest gold producer, led a drop by commodities producers as oil, gold and copper all recorded new lows for the year.

The MSCI Asia-Pacific Index lost 7.9 percent to 80.40 this week, bringing the index to its lowest close since May 2004. Measures of commodity and electronics companies posted the steepest declines among the index’s 10 industry groups as only utilities recorded gains.

The MSCI gauge has lost 49 percent this year and is on track for its worst annual performance since it was created in 1987. About half the value of global equities has been erased in the last year, with almost US$30 trillion in value lost.

TAIPEI

Taiwanese share prices are expected to encounter additional volatility over the next week as foreign institutional investors remain at the sell side amid the global financial woes, dealers said.

Many investors remain cautious ahead of a US Federal Reserve policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, waiting for possible rate cuts and comments on the world economy, they said.

The market is expected to move lower to test the 4,200-point support level next week, while a likely technical rebound may lift the index to around 4,600 points, dealers said.

For the week to Friday, the TAIEX closed down 380.78 points, or 7.68 percent, at 4,579.62 after a 3.32 percent fall a week earlier.

Average daily turnover stood at NT$41.38 billion (US$1.25 billion), compared with NT$49.94 billion a week ago. The weighted index fell 150.89 points, or 3.19 percent, from Thursday.

TOKYO

Japan’s Nikkei stock index plunged 9.6 percent.

The Nikkei-225 index lost 811.9 points to end at 7,649.08, near a 20-year low of 7,607.88 struck on April 28, 2003. The broader TOPIX index of all-first section shares fell 65.59 points, or 7.52 percent, to 806.11.

HONG KONG

Hong Kong share prices closed 8.3 percent down.

The Hang Seng Index plunged 1,142.11 points to 12,618.38, its lowest close since it ended at 12,431 points on Aug. 24, 2004.

SYDNEY

Australian share prices fell 2.6 percent. Some A$30 billion (19.9 billion US) was wiped off the market’s value as property, miners and financial institutions tumbled to end the week lower.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index fell 105.0 points to close at 3,869.4 while the broader All Ordinaries slipped 107.7 points, or 2.7 percent, to 3,831.6, its weakest close since Nov. 2, 2004.

SHANGHAI

Chinese share prices closed down 1.92 percent. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which covers A and B shares, was down 35.94 points at 1,839.62. The Shanghai A-share index fell 1.91 percent to 1,932.37, while the Shenzhen A-share index lost 8.99 points, or 1.66 percent, to 531.72.

SEOUL

South Korean shares closed 10.6 percent lower.

The KOSPI index ended down 110.96 points at 938.75, the lowest figure since May 2005.

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