MANILA, Philippines – Asian stock markets sank Monday, battered by weak Chinese trade and a reduced estimate for Japan’s economic growth. Shares in Malaysia Airlines tumbled on news of the weekend disappearance of one its jets en route to Beijing.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.1 per cent to 15,111.92 and China’s Shanghai Composite slid 1.7 per cent to 2,023.22. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.6 per cent to 22,294.87.
Markets were also down in Australia, Taiwan, South Korea and Southeast Asia.
Data released on the weekend showed China’s exports fell by an unexpectedly large 18 per cent in February, possibly denting hopes trade will help drive the slowing economy while communist leaders push ambitious reforms.
China’s official 2014 economic growth target of 7.5 per cent, announced last week by Premier Li Keqiang, assumes trade also will grow by 7.5 per cent. But customs data show combined imports and exports so far this year have shrunk by 4.8 per cent.
Meanwhile, Japan reported Monday a record current account deficit for January, and lowered its economic growth estimate for the October-December quarter to 0.7 per cent from 1 per cent.
Andrew Sullivan of Kim Eng Securities in Hong Kong said sentiment was affected by the weak data from China and from Japan.
“Whilst there are technical factors behind the China data which means it is not as bad as the first look suggests, I think this morning we see selling first and asking questions later,” he said in a market commentary.
Shares of Malaysian Airlines System Bhd., the holding company of Malaysia Airlines, were down 8 per cent on the Kuala Lumpur stock market.
One of its Boeing 777 jets went missing early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. Search and rescue efforts in the South China Sea have not yet identified any debris.
On Friday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 closed roughly flat, up a point, or 0.05 per cent, to 1,878.04. The Dow Jones rose 30.83 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 16,452.72 and the Nasdaq composite lost 15.90 points, or 0.4 per cent, to 4,336.22.
In the oil market, benchmark U.S. crude for April delivery was down 16 cents at $102.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose The contract rose $1.02 on Friday to settle at $102.58.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3885 from its previous close of $1.3875. The dollar fell to 103.10 yen from 103.16 yen.
Associated Press Business Writers Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo and Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.