Jan. 16 - Asian shares fall Monday, on fears a mass downgrade of European sovereign debt ratings would further aggravate funding difficulties in the region. Arnold Gay reports.
Asian shares fell Monday, on fears a mass downgrade of European sovereign debt ratings would further aggravate funding difficulties in the region. Investors fled the markets, after Standard & Poor's cut ratings for nine of the euro zone's 17 nations, stripping Austria and France of their prized AAA ratings. The downgrades sent the euro to a near 11-year low against the yen, immediately weighing on Japan's blue chip exporters. The benchmark Nikkei 225 ended 1.4 percent lower. The cuts mean only four AAA rated countries will guarantee the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF). This has raised concerns about the fund's ability to contain the region's debt crisis. S&P says it will soon decide whether to downgrade the bailout fund. Shares outside Japan fell to their lowest in a week, with South Korean stocks leading losses. The Kospi lost as much as 1.5 percent before paring losses, but top steel maker Posco, and tech heavyweights Samsung and LG all closed sharply down. Taiwan stocks rose in early trade after the re-election of President Ma Ying-jeou, but quickly gave up those gains, to end in negative territory Monday. Fund managers like Ta Chong Securities' Chan Pei-Chun had expected a short-term rally, after Ma's win in the weekend election. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) TA CHONG SECURITIES MANAGER, CHAN PEI-CHUN, SAYING: "There are now no more uncertainties as the presidential election results have come out, so it makes sense that it would have recovered significantly and today's rise should have been quite large. But in fact it has only risen a little, which shows there is still not enough confidence in the markets" Analysts expect continued soft trading in a shortened trading week for Taiwan's stock markets. The uncertainty surrounding Europe and the impact on the global economy also weighed on Hong Kong and Shanghai shares, with investors waiting for China's full-year GDP numbers for 2011, due Tuesday. Arnold Gay, Reuters.