- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2009

HONG KONG (AP) Asian stock markets dropped early Wednesday as U.S. markets plummeted toward last year’s lows and investors began losing hope that governments can rescue the world’s economies from slipping deeper into recession.

It marked the region’s third day of declines, and followed a sell-off overnight on Wall Street that sent the major benchmarks to within a hair’s breadth of their lowest close in more than five years.

As President Barack Obama signed America’s $787 billion measure to revive the world’s largest economy, investors were still faced with a rash of downbeat news about everything form struggling U.S. carmakers to beleaguered banks and slumping business activity.

Amid the growing evidence of decay, investors are still waiting for more specifics from policy makers on plans to turn around a flagging world economy.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the system is broken,” said Kirby Daley, senior strategist at Newedge Group in Hong Kong. “And there does not seem to be a comprehensive long-term solution being formulated by any country, let alone a coordinated solution to the world’s economic problems.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average fell 90.86 points, 1.2 percent, to 7,554.65, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 191.61 points, or 1.5 percent, to 12,753.79. South Korea’s Kospi was off 1.3 percent at 1,112.75

In mainland China, stocks again gave up some the gains logged during their heady rise in recent weeks, with the Shanghai benchmark falling 2.1 percent to 2,271.62.

Markets in Australia and Singapore slipped as well.

The losses were subdued, however, compared to Wall Street, where doubts about the government’s stimulus and bank bailout programs sent stocks swooning.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 297.81 points, or 3.79 percent, at 7,552.60 ? just 31-hundredths of a point above its post-meltdown Nov. 20 close of 7,552.29, which was its lowest close since March 12, 2003. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 37.67, or 4.56 percent, to 789.17.

U.S. futures pointed to a modest rebound on Wall Street Wednesday.

In Europe Tuesday, the FTSE 100 index of British shares closed down 2.4 percent, Germany’s DAX was 3.4 percent lower, and France’s CAC-40 sank 2.9 percent.

Oil prices were little changed in Asian trade, with Light, sweet crude for March delivery up 2 cents at $34.95 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract tumbled $2.58 to settle at $34.93 overnight amid gloomy economic data.

In currencies, the dollar dipped to 92.15 yen, down from 92.37 yen. The euro was largely flat at $1.2590.

AP Business Writer Pan Pylas contributed to this report from London

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