Asian stocks extend retreat after Wall Street ends week down; European shares higher

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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SHANGHAI, China - Asian stock markets mostly extended their slide Monday amid worries over risks from debt troubles in Europe and after Wall Street notched its fourth straight weekly drop. European markets were higher in early trade, breaking a string of losses.
Worries about unsustainable government debt in several European countries has rattled global financial markets since early this year. Those concerns intensified last week, undermining the euro, after Portugal's lawmakers defeated the government over its deficit reduction plan.
A surprise drop in the U.S. unemployment rate Friday tempered losses on Wall Street though analysts say it will take several years for employment to return to its pre-financial crisis levels.
As trading got started in Europe, benchmarks in Britain, France and Germany were up 1 per cent or more. Futures augured gains Monday on Wall Street with S&P futures adding 5.8 point, or 0.6 per cent, to 1,065.60.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed at a nearly two-month low, falling 1.1 per cent, or 105.27, to 9,951.82 as exporters were hit by a stronger yen, which can erode their overseas profits. It was its lowest close since Dec. 10, when the Nikkei ended at 9,862.82.
Chinese shares also dropped in listless trading, with investors keeping to the sidelines ahead of a weeklong Lunar New Year holiday, which begins Saturday.
The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3 per cent, or 7.77, to close at 2,935.17, led by declines in banks and other financial companies.
"With the further spreading of the European debt question, investors didn't dare to make moves because nobody knows what might happen on Wall Street during the holidays here," said Cao Xuefeng, an analyst for Huaxi Securities in the western city of Chengdu.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.6 per cent, or 114.19, to 19,550.89 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.9 per cent, or 14.33, to 1,552.79.
Elsewhere in the region, shares were lower in Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines but rose in Singapore, Taiwan and in Australia, where strength in commodities prices boosted shares in resource companies.
In Tokyo trade, shares in Toyota Motor Corp. rebounded earlier in the day, after the company's president Akio Toyoda apologized late Friday for the crisis over massive recalls due to safety problems in some of its most popular models. But they later fell back, shedding 0.9 per cent.
The Dow Jones industrial average closed fell 55.10, or 0.5 per cent, to 10,012.23 last week. The Standard&Poor's 500 index fell 7.68, or 0.7 per cent, to 1,066.19. The Nasdaq composite index fell 6.23, or 0.3 per cent, to 2,141.12.
Oil jumped above $72 a barrel in Asia, boosted by tensions over Iran's nuclear program and persistently cold weather in the U.S. northeast. Benchmark crude for March delivery was up $1.05 to $72.24 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
In currencies, the dollar reversed losses to be steady at 89.50 yen. The euro rose to $1.3709 from $1.3664.

Organizations: Nikkei, S&P, Huaxi Securities Toyota Motor Dow Jones industrial average New York Mercantile Exchange

Geographic location: SHANGHAI, Europe, U.S. China Asia Portugal Britain France Germany Japan Chengdu Hong Kong South Korea Indonesia Malaysia New Zealand Philippines Singapore Taiwan Australia Tokyo Iran

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