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Soft-Landing Prospects Ease Asian Market Woes

  • Ivan Broadhead

Securities stock board, Tokyo, Sept. 5, 2011 (file photo).

Securities stock board, Tokyo, Sept. 5, 2011 (file photo).

Banks and exporters led Asian stock markets lower Friday as uncertainty over the European economic situation continued.

Asia awoke Friday to learn Standard and Poor’s had cut Spain’s long-term sovereign credit worthiness from AA to AA-.

Fitch credit ratings agency also downgraded UBS’s issuer default rating from A+ to A, just weeks after the latest rogue-trader scandal engulfed the Swiss banking giant. Fitch warned that 12 other banks faced similar downgrades, including Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs.

"Given the size of those institutions relative to the size of their sovereign, we felt that it was prudent," said Joo-Yung Lee, Senior Director of Fitch’s financial institutions group. "It reflects our view of probability of default, [and] at A level they're still very far from that."

During Asian trading, shares of Asian exporters with significant European exposure fell, including Japanese car and technology manufacturers.

Despite worries over the European and U.S. economies, Stephen Schwartz, chief economist with BBVA Research, says Asia is well-positioned to withstand fallout from the European downturn.

"Our baseline is a ‘muddle-through’ scenario," said Schwartz, who broadly concurred with Thursday's IMF statement that China will continue to grow on domestic demand, which could offset the downturn elsewhere. "The fundamentals across most Asian economies are very strong, which leaves the region with a lot of room for policy stimulus to counter this weaker external demand.”

While this view applies to other regional players with large domestic markets such as India and Indonesia, he expressed reservations about the region’s smaller economies.

"If the global situation were to deteriorate, the economies that were hit hard then could be hit hard again," he said, citing smaller and more open export-dependent economies such as Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan.

China’s September consumer price data provided a glimmer of hope at the end of an unpredictable trading week.

Although Chinese inflation remains high, up six-point-one percent on the year, the figure was slightly down from August and July showings.