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Asian shares fall on eurozone fears

Feb 15 2013 07:33 AFP

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Hong Kong - Asian shares were down on Friday as data showing the eurozone slipped deeper into recession at the end of last year crimped market confidence ahead of a Group of 20 meeting in Russia.

Tokyo fell 1.03%, with the yen holding steady before finance ministers of G20 states gather for a weekend summit where Japan's controversial "monetary easing" plan to boost its economy is likely to figure prominently.

Hong Kong eased 0.25%, while Sydney was flat. Shanghai and Taipei are closed for the Lunar New Year Holiday.

Investor confidence was hit by news that recession in the 17-nation eurozone deepened sharply in the final three months of 2012 as the debt crisis continued to sap growth.

The eurozone economy shrank 0.6% in the three months to December, which compared with a contraction of 0.1% in the previous quarter, according to official data.

In the second quarter of 2012, it contracted 0.2%, meaning that the recession has now lasted three quarters. The eurozone had meanwhile registered zero growth in the first quarter of last year.

Analysts said the latest figures were worse-than-expected, with the major economies also now dragged down, including Germany, the bloc's powerhouse.

For 2012 as a whole, the eurozone economy contracted 0.5% and the wider 27-member European Union by 0.3%.

The data also weighed on US markets where the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 9.52 points to 13,973.39, despite two giant M&A deals, including the merger of American Airlines and US Airways to create the largest American carrier.

Ketchup maker Heinz also made a shock announcement that billionaire Warren Buffett's investment firm Berkshire Hathaway would partner with 3G Capital to buy it in a $28bn deal.

In currency markets, the dollar weakened to ¥92.75 from ¥92.87 in New York on Thursday.

The euro bought $1.3350 and ¥123.84, slipping from $1.3385 and ¥124.10 in New York.

Oil prices fell, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in March dropping two cents to $97.29 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for April shedding 15 cents to $117.85.

Gold was at $1 631.90 at 02:40 GMT, compared with $1 643.25 late on Thursday.

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