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Asian Commodity Stocks Plummet - 2004-04-30

Asian equities with exposure to China plummeted this week on worries of a major slow down.

In recent days Chinese authorities asked a number of banks to temporarily suspend lending in hot sectors like property and construction.

The move worried foreign investors in the region, who saw it as Beijing's attempt to slow China's economy, which many think is in danger of overheating.

Howard Gorges, who heads South China Brokerage in Hong Kong, says this week investors across Asia sold their stakes in companies exporting to China.

"A number of measures are already indicating that the market expects quite a sharp slowdown among cyclical stock and resource-related stocks," he said.

Mr. Gorges says Asian commodity stocks went down this week because the government is trying to slow China's construction boom, which has rapidly consumed raw materials from all over Asia. Taiwan's main share index, the Taiex, fell 4.4 percent on Friday. The index closed at 6,117, after sell-offs in the petrochemical and steel sectors.

Mr. Gorges points out that some of the hardest hit stocks are mainland Chinese firms listed on Hong Kong's stock market.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was down 3.5 percent on the week, closing Friday at 11,942.

"[In Hong Kong] We've fallen sharply on a number of days during the last couple of weeks and a number of the popular China related stocks have fallen 40 percent or more," said Howard Gorges. "This is something extraordinary to Hong Kong - nothing else like this is happening elsewhere."

Mr. Gorges says that many investors were not only jittery over a potential slowdown in China's economy, but are also expecting declines on Wall Street. He says many are anticipating an interest rate hike in the United States, which generally causes investors to shift money away from stocks to bonds.

South Korea's Kospi index saw five straight days of declines this week, ending at 862 Friday, almost eight percent down from a week ago.

Tokyo's Nikkei closed at 11,761 this week after a slide of five percent.