Asian Stocks Fall

Asian stocks fell, dragging the regional benchmark index to a fourth weekly decline, on renewed concern losses at financial institutions will mount as the global recession deepens., Bloomberg 3/6/2009 5:13:42 AM

HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe’s largest bank, sank 2.9 percent after CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets cut its share-price target and Citigroup Inc.’s stock fell below $1 for the first time. BHP Billiton Ltd. dropped 2.9 percent in Sydney after oil and metals prices retreated. Honda Motor Co., which gets more than half its sales from North America, lost 4.9 percent after the Japanese currency rose against the dollar.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1 percent to 72.37 as of 7:31 p.m. in Tokyo, following a two-day, 1.8 percent gain. The gauge lost 4 percent this week, taking declines in the past year to 50 percent, as the global recession pummeled profits at companies including BHP and Honda.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average slumped 3.5 percent to 7,173.10. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 2.4 percent, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 1.4 percent. All Asian markets declined except Taiwan, India and Sri Lanka.

European stocks dropped, pushing the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 Index to the lowest in more than 12 years, before a report that may show the U.S. economy lost the most jobs since 1949 last month.

Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and UniCredit SpA tumbled at least 6 percent, sending Italy’s benchmark S&P/MIB Index to a record low amid concern an economic slowdown at home and in Eastern Europe will weight on earnings. Wolseley Plc sank 11 percent after the world’s biggest distributor of heating and plumbing gear announced plans to sell shares. BT Group Plc slipped 6 percent as Morgan Stanley downgraded the U.K.’s largest phone company because of the stock market impact on pensions.

The Stoxx 600 declined 0.9 percent to 160.13 at 12:21 p.m. in London, the lowest since November 1996. The gauge has lost 7.5 percent this week as companies from Danisco A/S to Bayer AG gave disappointing forecasts and China quelled speculation the government will add to its stimulus plan.

National benchmark indexes declined in 15 out of 18 western European markets. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 was little changed, while Germany’s DAX lost 0.4 percent and France’s CAC 40 fell 0.6 percent. Italy’s S&P/MIB dropped 2.3 percent. The measure earlier fell below the 13,000 mark for the first time.