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Asian markets tumble, Japan hit by weak stimulus

03 August 2016, 18:44

Hong Kong - Most Asian markets tumbled for a second day on Wednesday, extending a global retreat, with Tokyo taking a hit from a strong yen after Japan's economy-boosting stimulus programme fell flat with investors.

Stocks rallied last month on promises of support from central banks. But disappointments about stimulus, weak US data, plunging oil prices and worries about European banks have sent dealers scurrying for cover.

Japan's government on Tuesday unveiled details of a ¥28trn package that it hopes will kickstart growth in the world's number three economy.

But the plan fell short of market expectations as only a quarter of it is new spending. The yen, seen as a safe haven asset in times of uncertainty, surged as a result.

The disappointing package - unveiled days after another sub-par stimulus from the Bank of Japan - saw the dollar tumble to a three-week low of ¥100.86.

While it had edged up to ¥101.03 in Asian trade on Wednesday, the stronger Japanese currency dragged on the country's exporters and the Nikkei closed down 1.9%.

"After all the build-up, it's a disappointment," Shane Oliver, a global investment strategist at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney, told Bloomberg News.

Oil sinks again

Hong Kong ended down 1.8%, with traders also playing catch-up with regional losses on Tuesday when the city's exchange was closed because of a typhoon. However, banking giant HSBC ended 1.8% higher after it announced a $2.5bn stock buyback and said it would maintain its dividend.

The decision came as it reported a 40% drop in net profit during a tumultuous April-June quarter leading up to the British EU referendum on June 23.

Sydney ended down 1.4%, Seoul was 1.2% off and Singapore shed 1%, with Manila more than 2% lower. Wellington and Taipei also tumbled.

However, Shanghai bucked the regional trend to close 0.2% higher

US and European markets ended down on Tuesday, with anxiety growing that stress tests on Europe's banks were overly lenient, said Chris Low, chief economist at FTN Financial.

The overriding fear concerns the difficulty banks face in making money during a low interest rate era.

Oil fell again, with investors on edge after the commodity sank into a bear market - a 20% fall from recent highs - on renewed worries about a supply glut as the crucial US summer driving season nears its end.

Brent edged down 0.3% to $41.66 and West Texas Intermediate eased 0.2% to $39.44.

Both contracts are well down from the levels above $50 touched in early June when output was hit by disruptions in Nigeria and Canada.

Attention will now turn to Friday's US jobs report for a fresh snapshot of the US economy, with a weak figure likely to dent expectations of a Federal Reserve rate rise this year.

In early European trade London rose 0.3%, Frankfurt added 0.1% and Paris gained 0.4%.

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