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Japan, China, South Korea lead Asian markets lower

Japan, China, South Korea lead Asian markets lower

Asian stock markets mostly fell Friday, with key indexes in Japan, China and South Korea sliding amid a renewed spike in oil prices.
Hong Kong's stock exchange was closed due to Typhoon Nuri, but Japanese stocks fell for a fourth day, with the benchmark Nikkei 225 finishing the week down 3.8 percent. On Friday, it fell 86.17 points, or 0.68 percent, to 12,666.04, the lowest since April 1.
In Seoul, the Korea Stock Price Index fell 1 percent to 1,496.91, its first close below 1,500 in 16 months as selling by foreign and individual South Korean investors outpaced buying from local institutions.
China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.1 percent to 2,405.23. Markets in Taiwan, the Philippines and New Zealand also fell.
Bucking the regional declines were gains in India, Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Oil prices held above US$121 a barrel Friday in Asia after jumping more than US$5 overnight as investors mulled the likelihood that tension with Russia would further disrupt crude supplies to the West.
Investor sentiment was battered in Japan throughout the week by lingering doubts about the U.S. financial sector as well as worries about a global slump, said Kazuki Miyazawa, a market analyst for Daiwa Securities SMBC in Tokyo.
"Until now, we've known that the U.S. and euro-zone were slowing," he said. "But there are now concerns about more serious slowdowns in developing and resource-rich countries," particularly China.
The declines in Asia came despite a gain in the Dow Jones industrial average Thursday, which rose 0.11 percent to 11,430.21 for its second straight gain after heavy losses the first two days of the week.
Among the sectors in Japan hit by the rise in oil prices were airlines and rubber companies. Japan Airlines closed down 1.33 percent at 223 yen, and Bridgestone Corp., one of world's largest tire makers, fell 2.43 percent to 1,729 yen.
In China, China South Locomotive & Rolling Stock Corp., the nation's biggest maker of trains, shed 8.6 percent. The country's biggest oil transporter, China Shipping Development Co., fell 3.8 percent.
The strengthening yen, which reduces the value of overseas profits when repatriated to Japan, battered major exporters. Sharp Corp. tumbled 2.26 percent to 1,340 yen, and Honda Motor Co. down 2.55 percent to 3,440 yen.
Chipmakers headed south as well, as prospects for the semiconductor market remained dim amid falling DRAM prices. Elpida Memory declined 1.71 percent to 2,590, and Advantest, a top maker of semiconductor testers, fell 3.54 percent to 2,195 yen.
Chinese financial stocks rose slightly. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the country's biggest lender, inched 0.07 percent. The bank reported Thursday that its first-half net profit jumped 57 percent. Bank of China Ltd. was up 0.03 percent.
Analysts said investors were waiting to see whether the government would announce plans to boost the market after the Beijing Olympics, which end Sunday.
JPMorgan & Co. issued a report this week speculating that Chinese leaders were considering a stimulus plan of up to 400 billion yuan (US$58.4 billion) to stabilize financial markets. But Chinese economists have dismissed the possibility of such action.
In currencies, the dollar bought 108.90 yen Friday afternoon from 108.45 yen late Thursday. The euro held steady at US$1.4885.
China's yuan weakened to 6.8249 against the U.S. dollar.