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Asian Stocks End Lower; Nikkei Plunges 6.9%

Updated from 12:39 a.m. EST

Asian markets plunged Thursday as Japanese stocks fell after a steep decline on Wall Street and government data showed that Japan's exports suffered a brutal drop in October.

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average finished down 6.9% to 7,703.04.

Japan posted a trade deficit in October, the second in three months, as exports fell 7.7% from a year earlier, the biggest drop since 2001. Earlier this week, figures revealed Japan had slid into a recession in the third quarter, joining Hong Kong and the euro zone in posting two straight quarters of economic contraction.

Exporters, such as Sony (SNE - Get Report) and Nintendo, traded to the downside. Financial stocks also finished lower.

Isuzu Motors fell 17% after the truck maker said it will cut 1,400 contract workers as it scales back production for this fiscal year. Isuzu was the latest Japanese carmaker to announce production cuts.

The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong closed down by 4%, while the S&P/ASX 200 index in Australia declined 4.2% as weakening commodity prices dragged down resource companies such as BHP Billiton (BHP) and Rio Tinto (RTP). At 3,352.90, the Australian benchmark is at its lowest since May 2004.

Oil prices fell below $53 to almost a two-year low Thursday in Asia as investors priced in lower crude demand from the global economic downturn. The price of a barrel of crude fell $1.12 to $52.50.

Stocks in Europe were lower. The FTSE 100 index in London declined 2.1%, while the DAX in Frankfurt dropped 2.7%.

Stock futures in the U.S. were indicating wide losses when Wall Street opens on Thursday. S&P 500 futures were down 9.70 points to 802.80, and were 55.28 points below fair value. Nasdaq futures declined 15.25 points to 1077.25, and were 79.20 points below fair value.

U.S. stocks on Wednesday took a late-day plunge to settle with massive losses, as record-setting declines in housing and consumer prices wreaked havoc on the major averages.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 427.47 points, or 5.1%, to 7997.28, and the S&P 500 fell 52.54 points, or 6.1%, to 806.58. The Nasdaq tumbled 96.85 points, or 6.5%, to 1386.42. All 30 of the Dow's component stocks finished with losses as the index closed below the 8000 mark for the first time in more than five years.

Copyright 2008 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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