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Asian markets down as Ukraine conflict fears escalate

Asian stocks dropped on Wednesday (Aug 6), following a sharp fall on Wall Street over fears of a market correction and concerns the conflict in Ukraine could escalate.

HONG KONG: Asian stocks dropped on Wednesday (Aug 6), following a sharp fall on Wall Street over fears of a market correction and concerns the conflict in Ukraine could escalate.

Analysts cited comments by Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, who said Russia had increased its military presence on the Ukraine border, suggesting the situation could deteriorate.

Tokyo's Nikkei fell 1.05 per cent or 160.52 points to close at 15,159.79, Sydney dropped 0.12 per cent, or 6.6 points, to finish at 5,512.0, and Seoul shed 0.27 per cent, 5.53 points, to 2,060.73.

Hong Kong fell 0.26 per cent, or 64.13 points, to end at 24,584.13 , while Shanghai slipped 0.11 per cent, or 2.48 points, to close at 2,217.47. Shenzhen rose 0.39 per cent, or 4.57 points, to end at 1,177.33.

"If Poland is indeed right that Russia is about to increase its presence in the east of Ukraine, buyers of all things risk will disappear fast as this is an indefinable outcome for markets," IG strategist Evan Lucas told Dow Jones Newswires. CMC Markets added: "The potential of an invasion in Ukraine sent investors scurrying for the exits as they find the slightest excuse to scale off profits."

In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 139.81 points (0.84 per cent) to 16,429.47. The broad-based S&P 500 fell 18.78 (0.97 per cent) to 1,920.21, while the Nasdaq Composite Index sank 31.05 (0.71 per cent) to 4,352.84.

The drop follows heavy losses at the end of July, which saw the Dow shed its gains for the year in its worst week since January, and the S&P 500 record its biggest weekly decline since mid-2012.

MARKET CORRECTION

Mace Blicksilver, director at Marblehead Asset Management, said of Tuesday's fall: "It's continuing the trend from last week." He added that some pundits have predicted a possible drop of 10 percent or more in stocks. US stocks have avoided a correction on this scale for more than two years.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei was also affected by a slump in shares in SoftBank -- one of the biggest constituents -- which fell 3.50 per cent to 6,972.0 yen (US$68). The drop followed reports the Japanese carrier's US unit Sprint is ending its pursuit of rival T-Mobile due to concerns about regulatory approval.

On foreign exchange markets on Wednesday, the euro was hovering near an eight-month low against the dollar in Asia on speculation that the European Central Bank (ECB) would hint at further stimulus after a policy meeting.

The euro bought US$1.3367 and 137.08 yen in Tokyo afternoon trade against US$1.3369 and 137.20 yen in New York late on Tuesday (Aug 5). The dollar was changing hands at 102.59 yen in Tokyo trade compared with 102.62 yen in New York trade Tuesday.

In oil trade, the benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for September delivery rose 10 cents to US$97.48 while Brent crude gained 25 cents to US$104.86 in afternoon trade.

Gold fetched US$1,293.88 an ounce by 1210 GMT compared with US$1,292.10 late on Tuesday.

In other markets:

-- Jakarta ended down one per cent, or 50.86 points, at 5,058.23.

Carmaker Astra International fell 2.24 per cent to 7,625 rupiah, while palm oil producer Astra Agro Lestari gained 1.43 per cent to 26,650 rupiah.

-- Singapore closed down 0.22 per cent, or 7.44 points, to 3,320.23.

Real estate developer Capitaland eased 2.04 per cent to S$3.37 while Singapore Telecommunications rose 0.26 per cent to S$3.93.

-- Bangkok fell 0.43 per cent or 6.57 points to 1,522.41.

Bumrungrad Hospital gained 4.92 per cent to 128.00 baht, while oil company PTT dropped 0.91 per cent to 325.00 baht.

-- Kuala Lumpur fell 6.77 points, or 0.36 percent, to close at 1,869.92.

Malayan Banking lost 0.10 per cent to 9.97 ringgit, Public Bank eased 0.40 per cent to 19.80 while Malaysian Airline System gained 2.13 per cent to 0.24 ringgit.

-- Mumbai retreated 0.94 per cent, or 242.74 points to 25,665.27.

Bhushan Steel dropped 20.00 per cent to 304.60 rupees, while Apollo Tyres fell 7.15 per cent to 171.95 rupees.

-- Manila lost 0.36 per cent or 25.03 points to 6,948.97.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone slumped 2.10 per cent to 3,084.00 pesos, while Alliance Global eased 0.18 per cent to 27.60 pesos.

-- Taipei edged up 0.03 per cent, or 2.53 points, to 9,143.97.

TSMC rose 0.84 per cent to NT$120.5 while Acer fell 2.06 per cent to NT$23.75.

-- Wellington fell 0.23 per cent, or 11.94 points, to 5,092.23.

Contact Energy down 0.90 per cent at NZ$5.50 and Air New Zealand up 1.04 per cent at NZ$1.94.