Asian Stocks Slump to 5-Week Low

Asian stocks fell, dragging the regional benchmark index to a five-week low, after Japanese machinery orders and U.S. retail sales dropped at more than double the pace economists had estimated., Bloomberg 1/15/2009 6:52:49 AM

Advantest Corp., the world’s No. 1 maker of memory-chip testing equipment, lost 9.8 percent after machine orders sank by a record 16.2 percent. Samsung Electronics Co., the largest television maker globally, fell 6.1 percent after U.S. retail sales declined for a sixth month. Woori Financial Holdings Co. led South Korean banks lower as the won weakened and a government official said the nation’s growth would fall short of estimates. BHP Billiton Ltd. lost 6.6 percent after metals prices slumped.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 3.8 percent to 83.58 as of 7:20 p.m. in Tokyo, set for the lowest close since Dec. 8. All 10 industry groups on the gauge lost ground. The cost of protecting Asia-Pacific bonds from default rose, while the region’s currencies fell as investors fled equities.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average tumbled 4.9 percent to close at 8,023.31, the sharpest decline since Dec. 12. Banks and automakers dragged down South Korea’s Kospi index 6 percent, the biggest sell-off since Nov. 20. It led declines by major markets today. The Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensitive Index, or Sensex, fell 3.5 percent to the lowest since Dec. 5.