WALL ST OVERHAUL: ASIAN STOCK MARKETS TUMBLED AFTER OBAMA PROPOSAL
HONG KONG, JANUARY 23, 2010 (STAR) (AP) – Asian stock markets tumbled Friday after President Barack Obama proposed a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street banks to avert future financial crises. European shares opened modestly lower.
Losses spread across most Asian markets and sectors in the region following an overnight retreat in the US. Oil prices rose after trading below $76 a barrel while the dollar lost ground against the yen and euro.
Obama said he would seek to limit the size and complexity of large financial institutions so their collapse wouldn't imperil the broader financial system and world economy, leading to more rescues at taxpayers' expense. The move comes amid growing public frustration with Wall Street as bailed-out banks continue to restrict lending and hit consumers with exorbitant fees at time of high unemployment and slow economic growth.
The announcement and Wall Street's reaction spooked a market already on edge over the China's recent moves to prevent its economy from overheating amid worries of inflation and asset bubbles.
Adding to the uncertainty are questions about whether this year's economic prospects justify more gains after the run-up in stock prices that began in early 2009, said Mark Matthews, strategist at Macquarie Capital Securities in Hong Kong.
Last year "was such an amazing ride and people are starting to wonder if the recovery that we're seeing in 2010 was already priced in," Matthews said.
Europe's fall was more muted: Britain's FTSE lost 0.1 percent, Germany's DAX shed 0.3 percent and France's CAC-40 was off 0.4 percent. US futures pointed to thin gains Friday on Wall Street. S&P futures rose 3.2, or 0.3 percent, to 1,114.30.
A number of markets in Asia recovered some of their losses later in the session. Japan helped lead the declines, with the Nikkei 225 stock average diving 277.86 points, or 2.6 percent, to 10,590.55. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 136.49, or 0.7 percent, to 20,726.18 and Korea's main market index lost 2.2 percent to 1,684.35.
Elsewhere, China's Shanghai benchmark fell 1 percent, India's Sensex shed 1 percent and Australian stocks retreated 1.6 percent.
While banks in the US fell steeply, shares in Asian financial institutions performed better, with many closing the session higher. Other industries like commodities suffered big drops as concerns about future global demand prompted investors to scale back their riskier bets.
In the US Thursday, Wall Street was yanked lower by heavy selling in bank stocks.
The Dow fell 213.27, or 2 percent, to 10,389.88, its biggest point and percentage drop since Oct. 30.
The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 21.56, or 1.9 percent, to 1,116.48. The Nasdaq composite index fell 25.55, or 1.1 percent, to 2,265.70.
Oil prices rose in Asia after early losses, with benchmark crude for March delivery up 12 cents at $76.20 a barrel. The contract dropped $1.66 to settle at $76.08 overnight.
The dollar weakened to 90.25 yen from 90.49 yen. The euro was higher at $1.4136 from $1.4082.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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