Asian markets fell Wednesday, as traders reacted to disappointing news on Wall Street and mainland China shares plunged on profit-taking.
In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 1.1% to 13111.89, as real estate and construction shares fell.
Investors were discouraged after U.S. financial shares dropped overnight on Washington Mutual's dividend cut and additional $3.5 billion in reserves for bad loans in the first quarter, up from the $1.8 billion to $2 billion the bank forecasted in December.
Construction companies were notable losers as Obayashi /zigman2/quotes/202197670/delayed JP:1802 -1.16% took its sector peers down with it. It dropped 9.4% after revising down its group net profit outlook, saying a slowdown in construction due to higher prices for materials contributed to the lower forecast. Kajima /zigman2/quotes/206026698/delayed JP:1812 -1.86% shed 7.1% and Shimizu /zigman2/quotes/201246749/delayed JP:1803 -0.51% skidded 5.8%.
Real-estate shares were lower as well on a series of broker downgrades. Tokyu Land lost 8.5% after Credit Suisse cut its rating, citing weakness in the housing market. Sumitomo Realty & Development /zigman2/quotes/206628792/delayed JP:8830 -1.31% fell 5.7% and Mitsui Fudosan /zigman2/quotes/205394574/delayed JP:8801 -0.91% lost 2.6%.
Meanwhile, Elpida Memory bucked the overall market weakness, gaining 5.2% after saying it had raised the prices of some of its chips 5%-10% in negotiations with customers.
In mainland China, the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 5.5% as jittery investors unloaded shares in an afternoon sell-off. The 198.63-point decline in the Shanghai index, to 3413.91, caps a three-day streak of advances that brought share prices back from one-year lows hit last week.
Market heavyweight PetroChina pulled the index lower, dropping 4.9%. Financial stocks also fell sharply. Industrial & Commercial Bank of China fell 4.1% while Shanghai Pudong Development Bank fell 7.5%. Bank of China fell 3.5%.
PetroChina also dragged down Hong Kong's markets, with the Hang Seng Index closing 1.4% lower at 23984.57.
PetroChina /zigman2/quotes/204979431/delayed HK:857 -0.39% fell 3.6%, leading declines in Hong Kong-listed Chinese firms. Ping An Insurance /zigman2/quotes/210315058/delayed HK:2318 +3.51% fell 3.9% and China Life /zigman2/quotes/202359856/delayed HK:2628 +0.46% slid 3.7%. The three firms will report first-quarter results April 24-30, which could provide fresh trading cues, analysts said.
Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 closed down 0.9% at 5520.2 on light volume after hitting a four-day low of 5509.6. Banks continued to lead the market lower as brokers downgraded earnings estimates for the sector after Australia & New Zealand Banking Group warned Monday that it would make a bigger-than-expected provision for bad debts. ANZ /zigman2/quotes/205482049/delayed AU:ANZ +0.24% fell 3.3%, Commonwealth Bank /zigman2/quotes/200638713/delayed AU:CBA -1.10% fell 3.1% and National Australia Bank /zigman2/quotes/210431826/delayed AU:NAB +1.51% fell 3.6%.
BHP Billiton /zigman2/quotes/201448516/delayed AU:BHP +1.65% rose 3.7%, preventing a bigger fall in the overall market, following reports that China was in the early stages of planning to buy a stake of more than 9% in the company. BHP declined to comment, and those Chinese corporate officials who were reached either declined to comment or said they weren't aware of any such move.
In late trading, Singapore's Straits Times Index was 1.18% lower and Mumbai's Bombay Sensex was up 0.22%. South Korea's markets were closed for general elections.
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