Asia Stocks Fall


Asian stocks fell to a seven-week low, led by mining companies and automakers, after unexpected job losses in the U.S. last month heightened concern the world's largest economy is in recession.

Toyota Motor Corp., Japan's largest automaker, retreated after the yen climbed to an eight-year high on speculation the U.S. Federal Reserve will further cut interest rates. BHP Billiton Ltd., the world's biggest mining company, declined along with metals prices.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index slumped 1 percent to 138.23 at 10:18 a.m. Tokyo, set to close at its lowest since Jan. 23. Materials and industrial stocks led declines among the index's 10 industry groups.

Japan's Nikkei 225 Stock Average retreated 1.5 percent to 12,592.48. All regional markets open for trading fell. Malaysia's stock benchmark tumbled the most since April 2001 after the ruling coalition lost a parliamentary majority.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 1.8 percent, while South Korea's Kospi index fell 1.7 percent.

In the U.S., the Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 0.8 percent, after February payrolls dropped. Signs the U.S. is in a recession, along with a further deterioration in credit markets, spurred traders to bet the Fed will cut its benchmark rate as low as 1.75 percent by June.

The dollar weakened to 101.43 against the yen on March 7, the lowest since January 2000, and was recently at 102.35.

Toyota, which counts North America as its biggest market, fell 1.3 percent to 5,260 yen. Every 1 yen gain in the Japanese currency against the dollar trims 35 billion yen ($342 million) from Toyota's annual operating profit, according to the company.


Bloomberg
3/9/2008 7:14:05 PM