Asian Shares Slide As Ukraine Crisis Deepens

Asian stocks retreated on Friday as Ukraine’s nuclear regulator said a fire broke out at a building on the site of the country’s biggest nuclear power plant after shelling by Russian forces.

The fire was later put out by Ukrainian forces, and the U.S. energy secretary said there was no indication of elevated radiation levels.

Concerns about slowing economic growth and inflationary pressures also remained on investors’ radars.

Chinese stocks ended lower on worries over the worsening Ukraine crisis and property market uncertainties. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slumped 33.46 points, or 1 percent, to 3,447.65, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunged 2.5 percent to settle at 21,905.29.

Japanese shares fell the most in two weeks as the Russia-Ukraine conflict entered its ninth day. The Nikkei 225 Index closed down 591.80 points, or 2.2 percent, at 25,985.47 after falling as much as 3 percent earlier in the day. The broader Topix closed 3 percent lower at 1,844.94 as risk-off mood prevailed because of global tensions.

Consumer cyclicals led losses after being outperformers in the months before the ongoing crisis. Hino Motors plummeted 14.8 percent on reports the truck maker is being probed over emissions data. Parent Toyota Motor shed 3.6 percent and Toyota Group supplier Denso slumped 6.3 percent. Chipmakers Tokyo Electron, Advantest and Renesas all fell around 4 percent.

Australian markets snapped a five-day winning streak on news that Europe’s largest nuclear plant is on fire. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 40.60 points, or 0.6 percent, to 7,110.80, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 51.50 points, or 0.7 percent, at 7,395.30.

Selling was seen across the board, though gold miners outperformed, tracking firmer bullion prices. Evolution Mining rose 1.2 percent, Northern Star Resources added 1.7 percent and Newcrest Mining surged 2.8 percent.

Earlier in the day, retail trade data for January and business conditions and sentiments data for February reflected the strength and resilience of the Australian economy in an uncertain market scenario.

Seoul stocks fell sharply to snap a four-day winning streak as fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops intensified and data showed the country’s headline inflation accelerated in February to top 3 percent for a fifth consecutive month.

The Kospi closed down 33.65 points, or 1.2 percent, at 2,713.43, after reaching a three-week closing high in the previous session. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics declined 1.9 percent, while SK Hynix and LG Chem gave up 3-4 percent.

New Zealand shares ended lower, with growth stocks leading losses after commodity prices took another sharp leap overnight. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 Index dropped 69.63 points, or 0.6 percent, to 12,141.77. Pacific Edge tumbled 4.2 percent and Vista Group lost 3.5 percent.

U.S. stocks showed wild swings before finishing mostly lower overnight amid concerns that the sanctions imposed on Russia along with the subsequent surge in commodity prices will affect inflation and the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.

In economic news, the latest labor market and service sector data painted a mixed picture of the world’s largest economy.

The Dow eased 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 shed half a percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 1.6 percent.

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