China Becomes No. 1 Destination for Japanese Exports, Asian Shares Slide

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Asian markets declined again Wednesday with China's Shanghai Composite Index losing 1.1% to close at 2,987. In Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index dropped 0.8% to 20,003 and in Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index fell 0.7%, ending the day at 10, 252.Amid the gloom of falling share prices, Japan today announced that its exports have risen for the first time in 15 months, posting a 12.1% increase in overseas shipments last month. The big surprise was that Japanese shipments to China have outpaced those to the U.S., making China the number one destination for Japanese products and highlighting the expanding desire among the new Chinese middle class for the trappings of the modern lifestyle.

Products the Chinese typically buy from Japan include electronic parts, high-end digital cameras and computers, as well as car parts and fancy SUVs -- popular among the wealthy who are eager to show off their prosperity. But today this positive spin on the story didn't prevent shares from slipping in all of these sectors. Mazda Motor plummeted 3.8%, Toyota Motor, still reeling from a massive recall, fell 4.3, Honda Motor slipped 1.6% and Isuzu Motors dropped 2.6%.

Electronics exporters fared no better, with the specter of slumping Chinese sales adding to the problem of the strengthening yen. Casio Computer plunged 4.2%, Canon fell 2.8%, Sony Corp. lost 2% and Sharp sank 1.6%.

In China, banking shares continued to fall with reports that some banks have been instructed to stop issuing new loans and in some cases have stopped rolling over loans: Merchants Bank plunged 4%, China Construction Bank plunged 3.1%, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China lost 1.8%, and Bank of China lost 1.2%.

Chinese car makers closed lower today as the availability of car loans looks set to dry up. Car-making giant SAIC lost 2.8%, DongFeng Automobile, which recently unveiled its fancy new SUV for the Chinese market dropped 3.2%, FAW Car slipped 1.7% and Chongquing Changan Automobile fell 2.7%.

In Hong Kong, shares in United Co. Rusal dropped 10.6% in today's IPO. Aluminum producer Russal is the first Russian company to trade in Hong Kong and had raised $2.2 billion as of last week, according to Forbes, having locked in major investors including U.S. hedge fund Paulson & Co and Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing's Cheung Kong.

Among the losses in Hong Kong, clothing and toy manufacturer and exporter Li & Fung rose 3.1% and Tsingtao Brewery added 1.5%. Perhaps a drink and a bit of retail therapy are the perfect antidote to a tough day at the exchange.
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