A currency trader talks on the phone near the screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at the foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 25, 2019. Shares were sharply lower in Asia on Monday after Wall Street ended last week with a broad retreat. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Asian shares sink, tracking Friday's retreat on Wall Street

March 25, 2019 - 2:03 am

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares tumbled in Asia on Monday after Wall Street ended last week with a broad retreat, while Thailand's market saw a moderate loss following a general election that appeared likely to keep the incumbent, junta-backed prime minister in power.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index skidded 3.1 percent to 20,962.77, while the Shanghai Composite index declined 1.0 percent to 3,070.87. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1.8 percent to 28,590.67 and South Korea's Kospi declined 1.8 percent to 2,147.60. The S&P ASX 200 gave up 1.1 percent to 6,126.20.

Investors are looking ahead to China-U.S. trade talks that are due to resume Thursday in Beijing.

Thailand's SET dropped 0.9 percent after a military-backed party prevailed in the country's first election since a 2014 coup, after tilting the electoral system in its favor. The outcome is likely to add to nearly two decades of political instability in Thailand.

The preliminary results raise the likelihood that Prayut Chan-ocha, will stay on as prime minister with backing from a coalition.

"However, the transition to the new government may not be smooth," Sian Fenner of Oxford Economics said in a commentary.

"It is unlikely that any party will win a clear majority and potential friction between political parties and the military could lead to economic activity being significantly disrupted," Fenner said.

Shares also were lower across the rest of Southeast Asia and India's Sensex fell 1.0 percent to 37,788.12.

Wall Street was roiled Friday by fresh signs that global economic growth is slowing. The jitters triggered a sell-off in stocks and sent bond yields sharply lower, flashing warning lights for a possible recession.

Among the triggers was news that factory production in the euro currency alliance fell at its steepest rate in about six years, according to surveys of manufacturers' purchasing managers.

The wave of selling knocked 460 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average and gave the benchmark S&P 500 index its worst day since Jan. 3. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell more than the rest of the market as traders shedded risker assets.

The S&P 500 index dropped 1.9 percent to 2,800.71 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average gave up 1.8 percent to 25,502.32. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, slid 2.5 percent to 7,642.67. The Russell 2000 lost 3.6 percent, to 1,505.92.

Worried investors shifted money into bonds, which sent yields much lower. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped to 2.43 percent from 2.54 percent late Thursday, a big move.

The slide in bond yields hurt bank stocks which, along with technology companies, accounted for much of the broad decline in stocks. The utilities sector was the only one to eke out a gain.

ENERGY: Energy futures continued their slide. Benchmark U.S. crude oil slid 42 cents to $58.62 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 1.6 percent to settle at $59.04 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude shed 29 cents to $66.74 per barrel. It fell 1.2 percent to close at $67.03 a barrel on Friday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar rebounded against the Japanese yen, to 109.97 yen from 109.91 yen on Friday. The euro was little changed at $1.1302, down from $1.1303.

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