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Asian stocks fell after reports North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has died, extending earlier losses sparked by Fitch Ratings saying it may cut the credit ratings of European nations.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 Stock Average (NKY) declined 1.3 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 2.4 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.2 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3 percent.
Losses deepened after Yonhap News reported that Kim Jong Il, the second-generation North Korean dictator, died at age 70. South Korea’s Kospi Index sank 3.4 percent. The Kospi 200 volatility gauge closed 10 percent higher, the biggest advance in five weeks, at 27.98, indicating options traders expect a swing of 8 percent in the next 30 days.
HSBC fell 2 percent to HK$57.65 in Hong Kong. Westpac Banking Corp., Australia’s second-biggest lender, dropped 2.2 percent to A$20.05 in Sydney. Samsung Electronics slid 3.6 percent to 1.007 million won Seoul.
Chinese developers declined as China’s home prices posted the worst performance this year, with more than half of the 70 biggest cities monitored in November recording declines after the government reiterated plans to maintain property curbs.
China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd., the biggest mainland homebuilder listed in Hong Kong, sank 3.4 percent to HK$13.84 in Hong Kong. China Resources Land Ltd., a state-owned developer, dropped 4 percent to HK$12.48. Agile Property Holdings Ltd., a real-estate company partly owned by JPMorgan Chase & Co., fell 3.2 percent to HK$6.66.
Billabong tumbled 44 percent to A$2.03, poised for its biggest decline on record, after saying first-half profit may fall by as much as 26 percent as sales stalled in three key markets, including Australia, Europe and North America. The forecast comes less than two months after the company predicted a strong increase in earnings.
Most European stocks declined, following two weeks of losses for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index, as euro-area policy makers discussed channeling additional financial support through the International Monetary Fund. Euro-area finance ministers held a conference call today to discuss channeling 200 billion euros ($260 billion) in additional funding through the International Monetary Fund and the mechanics of a so-called fiscal compact that were agreed upon in the Dec. 9 European Union summit accord, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The European Central Bank will offer unlimited funding against collateral for as long as three years in a tender tomorrow in President Mario Draghi’s latest attempt to get cash flowing around the financial system. It’s up to lenders to decide what to do with the money, he told the Financial Times in an interview.
Fitch lowered France’s credit outlook and put the grades of nations including Spain and Italy on review for a downgrade, citing the euro area’s failure to find a “comprehensive solution” to its debt crisis. Fitch placed Spain, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Ireland and Cyprus on a “Rating Watch Negative” review, which it expects to complete by the end of January, according to a statement.
National benchmark indexes declined in 12 of the 18 western European markets. France’s CAC 40 Index added 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX Index slipped 0.5 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index sank 0.4 percent.
SGL Carbon declined 9.5 percent to 40.99 euros after Chief Financial Officer Juergen Muth told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that the German maker of carbon and graphite products regards a takeover by Bayerische Motoren Werke AG and the carmaker’s heiress Susanne Klatten as unlikely. BMW and Klatten together hold about 44 percent in SGL.
BP Plc, Europe’s second-biggest oil producer, dropped 1.8 percent to 437.65 pence. Oil and gas companies were among the worst performers of the 19 industry groups in the Stoxx 600.
Vedanta Resources Plc dropped 3.6 percent to 1,046 pence. Antofagasta Plc slid 1.9 percent to 1,150 pence and Xstrata Plc lost 1.4 percent to 956.7 pence.
Copper futures dropped in London and New York as investors speculated that demand will ease after property prices fell in China, the world’s biggest consumer of industrial metals. In November, 49 big cities monitored in China posted house- price declines, the most this year, after the government affirmed plans to maintain property curbs.
Air Berlin rallied 8.3 percent to 2.50 euros after saying that Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s state-controlled airline, will pay 72.9 million euros to increase its stake in the German airline to 29.2 percent. Etihad will purchase 31.6 million new shares at Dec. 16’s closing price of 2.31 euros a piece, Air Berlin said in a statement. Etihad will keep the shares for at least two years and not increase its stake during that time.
Nestle climbed 2 percent to 52.20 Swiss francs as the world’s biggest food company limited declines on the Stoxx 600.
U.S. stocks retreated, following a two-day advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, amid concern European officials were failing to make progress in taming the debt crisis and as financial companies tumbled.
The S&P 500 slipped 1.2 percent to 1,205.32 at 4 p.m. New York time, according to preliminary closing data. The benchmark gauge for U.S. equities gained 0.7 percent over the previous two days.
The S&P 500 has fallen 4.2 percent in 2011, poised to snap a two-year (SPX) rally, amid concern about slower global growth as European leaders struggled to solve the region’s debt crisis. Financial shares had the biggest decline among 10 groups in the benchmark measure this year, tumbling 23 percent.
Equities slumped today as European Central Bank President Mario Draghi cited substantial risks to the economy and said the ECB can’t step up government bond purchases under its founding piece of legislation. Germany continued to oppose an early decision to raise the limit of 500 billion euros on overall emergency aid.
Euro-area governments met a target for boosting their anti- crisis warchest with a pledge to provide 150 billion euros ($195 billion) to the International Monetary Fund. Four non-euro users -- the Czech Republic, Denmark, Poland and Sweden -- will also pitch in, Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said in an e-mailed statement after chairing a teleconference of finance ministers today.
The first part of 2012 will be “risk off” as Europe’s sovereign-debt crisis encourages demand for safety, said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive officer at Pacific Investment Management Co.
Bank of America Corp. (BAC) and Citigroup Inc. (C) slumped more than 3.8 percent on a report that large financial institutions will have to hold extra capital. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) tumbled 3.7 percent to $30.54.
Energy companies dropped 1 percent as a group, while raw material shares declined 1.3 percent. Oil futures fell 0.3 percent after rising as much as 1 percent earlier. Chevron lost 1.1 percent to $100.30. Exxon Mobil tumbled 0.8 percent to $79.84.
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