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Asia Stocks Fall as US Services Sector Shrinks


Investors in Asia dumped stocks Wednesday following Wall Street's steep drop overnight. The culprit: new data that point to a faltering U.S. economy. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from Hong Kong.

News that the U.S. services sector shrank for the first time in five years triggered another day of heavy stock selling in Asia.

The services sector accounts for about two thirds of the U.S. economy, and the data adds to worrying signs of a looming recession. A slowdown in the U.S. economy could hurt Asian exporters.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled five-point-four percent to 1,339, with all of the index's 43 stocks ending lower. In Tokyo, the benchmark Nikkei 225 index fell 4.7 percent to just over 13,000. Singapore's Straits Times index was down 3.5 percent.

Shares in exporters, such as Japanese gaming company Nintendo, Australian construction materials maker James Hardie and Hong Kong exporter Li & Fung saw steep declines.

Tony Tong, a stock analyst at China Everbright Securities in Hong Kong, says investors are still waiting for something positive to come from the U.S.

"Investors are worried about the U.S. subprime issue that has spread to the retail section," he said. "So investors took cautious measures, so there's a lot of decline today."

Asian stock markets have seen large losses in recent weeks, as investors worried about the impact of the massive U.S. subprime loan losses on the rest of the world.

Trading closed early in Hong Kong and Singapore because of the Lunar New Year holiday, while markets in China, South Korea and Taiwan are closed. Those markets will re-open Monday.

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