Mar 23, 2012, 06.26 AM | Source: Reuters
MARKETS-GLOBAL:Asian shares fall, yen gains on global growth worries
Materials stocks led the losses on growth concerns and the commodity-linked Australian dollar was under pressure, but crude oil bounced back a little after tumbling overnight.
Data on Thursday showed China's manufacturing sector activity shrank in March for a fifth successive month, while German and French manufacturing suffered a sharp decline that even the most pessimistic economists failed to predict.
"Fears of a Chinese hard landing are on the rise; overdone we think," said Vincent Chaigneau, strategist at Societe Generale. "Concerns over Europe are burgeoning again, rightly so given the weak economy and the toxic focus on enlarging the firewall."
Tokyo's Nikkei share average fell 1.1 percent and MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.2 percent. Stocks in resource-dependent Australia fell 0.5 percent.
The weak data from continental Europe's two biggest economies suggested the euro zone cannot avoid recession, while in China a senior government economist said the economy was facing more downward pressure than expected.
Whilst a slowdown in Europe and China has been expected, investors were unnerved by the drop in new orders in both regions, which fuelled concerns that an unexpectedly severe downturn could snuff out the global recovery.
Wall Street stocks fell 0.7 percent on Thursday and oil slid almost $2 a barrel.
Rising risk aversion prompted investors to seek safety in the yen, which continued its gains on Friday, climbing about 0.1 percent to around 82.63 per dollar. The dollar slipped 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies.
Oil edged up around 30 cents a barrel, with Brent crude fetching around $123.44 and U.S. crude about $105.65.
(Reporting by Alex Ricardson in Singapore and Ian Chua in Sydney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)