Asia stocks down amid Lunar New Year holidays

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Monday, February 3, 2014

TOKYO -- Asian stocks fell Monday after Wall Street lost ground amid lingering jitters about weakness in the financial markets of some developing countries.

The Nikkei 225, the barometer for the Tokyo Stock Exchange, closed down 2 percent at 14,619.13 as the yen has reversed some of its weakness against the dollar in recent days, which is a negative for exporting stocks. Also negative for sentiment was an official Chinese manufacturing survey that showed factory output grew at a slower rate in January compared with December.

Markets were closed in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan and Malaysia for Lunar New Year holidays. Seoul's Kospi was down 1.1 percent at 1919.96. Among the markets open for business, only Thailand posted gains.

The financial markets in several developing countries including Turkey and Argentina have been shaken recently by concerns that growth will slow and money will flow out of their economies as the US Federal Reserve tightens its monetary policy. That has knocked many stock markets, which were ripe for a pullback after big gains in 2013.

Jitters about emerging markets continued to be the main focus for investors, said Hiroaki Hiwada, strategist at Toyo Securities Co.

That in turn was fueling buying of the yen, which was being viewed as safe haven, and that was helping send regional stocks lower, he said. The stock fall in New York was also weighing on investor sentiment, he said.

"There is little good news to trade on. Maybe by next week, people will start to buy shares back," said Hiwada.

On Friday on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 149.76 points, or 0.9 percent, to 15,698.85. The S&P 500 dropped 11.60 points, or 0.7 percent, to 1,782.59 and the Nasdaq lost 19.25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,103.88.

Benchmark US crude for March delivery was down 31 cents at $97.19 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 74 cents to close at $97.49 a barrel.

The euro was little changed at $1.3485. The dollar rose to 102.23 yen from 101.96 yen late Friday but is down from about 105 yen at the beginning of the year. (AP)

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