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Asian stocks dive over Euro zone worries

Singapore, May 21, 2010

Asian stock markets slid on Friday as worries about the euro zone and the flare-up in market volatility prompted investors to sell shares and keep cash until calm returns.

European shares were seen opening lower as well. Financial spreadbetters expected Britain's FTSE 100 to open as much as 1.1 percent lower, Germany's DAX as much as 0.8 percent down and France's CAC-40 1.1 percent weaker.

Trading was choppy in foreign exchange markets as the euro bounced back against the dollar on short-covering and the Australian dollar recovered from 10-month lows on talk of central bank intervention.

'Investors are shifting toward cash as you can see from such moves as investors were even selling gold yesterday,' said Masaru Hamasaki, a senior strategist at Toyota Asset Management.

'There's uncertainty over the extent of the fallout from the crisis, such as whether it would end up leading to a halt in financial trades like after the Lehman shock.'

In Asian trade, the euro firmed to $1.2590 from $1.2507 late in New York on Thursday. It got a boost on Thursday, helped by its gains versus the Swiss franc and speculation European monetary officials might intervene to prop up the single currency.

On the year, however, the euro is down about 12 percent against the dollar. Despite the latest rebound, sentiment on the currency remains decidedly negative, with investors concerned about a seeming lack of unity among euro zone leaders in addressing the debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei average fell as much as 3.2 percent to 9,696.63, a five-month low, but recovered slightly to close 2.5 percent down. The index has lost over 6.5 percent since the start of the week, when renewed worries about the euro zone began.

The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan fell 0.4 percent to an eight-month low.

The Australian dollar bounced to $0.8288 from 10-month lows of $0.8075 and jumped 3.1 percent against the yen to 74.11 yen after talk of central bank intervention sparked short-covering. The currency had fallen 3 percent against the dollar on Thursday.

Spot gold prices fell to a two-week low to $1165.50 an ounce as investors remained nervous about the turmoil on financial markets, but later recovered to $1,178.15. Spot platinum fell more than 3 percent.

U.S. crude futures fell below $70 a barrel on fears that crude demand could suffer because of Europe's debt crisis. NYMEX crude for July delivery was down almost 1 percent at $69.90 a barrel by 0210 GMT but then recovered to $70.30.-Reuters




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