Greece's 'Junk' Rating Rocks Asian Markets

Greece's Credit Woes Rocks Asia Markets
Greece's Credit Woes Rocks Asia Markets

Asian markets plunged Wednesday as Greece's credit rating woes rocked the markets. In Japan the Nikkei 225 Index plunged 2.6% to 10,925 and in Hong Kong the Hang Seng Index fell 1.5% to 20,949. China's Shanghai Composite Index slid 0.3% to 20,900.

As Standard & Poor's cut Greece's credit rating to "junk," shares in Japan's top electronics companies plunged. Canon, heavily dependent on European sales, sank 2.5% and Olympus, which also does big business in Europe, plummeted 2.5%. Konica Minolta tumbled 4.3%.

Panasonic Electric Works, which makes electrical appliances including lighting and automation equipment, dived 5.3%, and Advantest, which makes semiconductor testing devices, was down 5.2%.

Fears that the credit crisis of Greece and Portugal, will destabilize the rest of the European Union, which lately seemed to be recovering, threatened the share prices of popular consumer electronics companies. Sony tumbled 3.4%, TDK slipped 2.6% and Pioneer slid 2.1%.

Banks were Japan's second-worst performing sector, with Mitsubishi UFJ losing 2% and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group dipping 1.6%. Nomura fell 1%.

Yahoo Japan was also among the day's top losers, plunging 6.3% after JPMorgan Chase downgraded the stock. And that's despite Tuesday's announcement by the Internet giant that its fourth-quarter profits had risen 25% from a year earlier, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Japanese railroad companies suffered big losses today after reporting a drop in income for the past year. East Japan Railway dropped 6.4% and West Japan Railway fell 3.9%.

In Hong Kong it was the same story, with banks falling steeply: HSBC tumbled 2.9%, Bank of Communications sank 2.7%, Standard Chartered lost 2.6% and China Merchants Bank fell 2.1%.

Among Hong Kong clothing exporters Esprit Holdings, which earns more than 80% of its revenue in Europe, plunged 2.2% and Li & Fung, maker of trendy clothes sold at Abercrombie & Fitch and Target, slumped 2.3%.

A fall of 4.6% on the London Metals Exchange dragged shares in Hong Kong-listed mining companies lower: Aluminum Corp. of China, affectionately known as Chalco, tumbled 2.8%, Jiangxi Copper slid 1.6% and Zijin Mining fell 1.1%. Oil prices fell 1% to $81.66 per barre in New York, sending Asian oil companies lower. Hong Kong oil exploration darling CNOOC suffered a 1.7% loss today and PetroChina, which produces crude oil and natural gas, dipped 1.2%.

In China, Guangzhou Shipyard International, which depends on Europe for nearly a third of its sales, according to Bloomberg, sank 1.7%. Meanwhile, COSCO, one of Asia's biggest shipping and transportation companies, gained 1.7%.

New restrictions on property investments seem to have stalled the rise of some real estate companies' shares. Poly Real Estate ended the day at a six-week low, having lost 1.9% today and China Vanke lost 0.5%. But Gemdale, which has been awarded "healthy residence" honors by the Chinese government, surged 3.6%. Its projects, such as Green World and Green Town, are located in major cities from Beijing to Tianjin. Perhaps the true test of the strength of the Chinese economy lies all the way in Greece.