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Global Economic Gloom Spooks Stock Investors in Asia

Most Asia-Pacific stock markets closed lower on their first trading day of the week. Market analysts say investors have yet to see relief in the global economic gloom as more statistics point to a deepening downturn.

Investors in Asia sold a lot of financial stocks Monday worried about bad debts and capital adequacy in the global banking system.

In Hong Kong, investors waited anxiously for HSBC Holdings bank's annual earnings announcement. HSBC said Monday profit shrunk 70 percent in 2008 and that it will raise nearly $18 billion to boost capital.

Castor Pang, strategist at Sun Hung Kai Financial, says the results are unlikely to lift market sentiment in Hong Kong, where HSBC is the biggest bank.

"This announcement would continue to hurt market sentiment and the confidence on HSBC," Pang said.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled four percent and Japan's Nikei Index also fell nearly four percent.

Bank stocks across the region were also battered. Shares of Japan's biggest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, declined 6.8 percent. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia fell nearly five percent.

Analysts say the selling Monday was also a reaction to bleak U.S. economic numbers announced late last week, which pointed to a deepening economic recession.

Gloomy statistics are coming out of the region as well. Japan said Monday monthly wages continued to decline. In Australia, the government treasurer, Wayne Swan, warned of weak economic numbers to be released Wednesday.

"There's no doubt there will be a dramatic impact on growth in the December quarter from what has occurred around the globe," Swan said.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index fell nearly three percent to a five-year low.

South Korea's KOSPI fell four percent, while Taiwan dropped three percent. Thailand's index was down more than three percent.

Shanghai recovered from early losses and closed half a percent higher.