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Asian Markets Update: Major Bourses Fall, Korea Tumbles

Fears of a further fall in U.S. equities added to anxieties over an economic slowdown in Korea.

TOKYO -- Buying from individual investors helped slow the fall in Japan, but in Korea it was a different ballgame.

Along with foreign investors, individuals reportedly dumped Korean shares across the board Monday, which left the key


index down 4.4% by the end of the day. Fears of a further fall in U.S. equities and the strength in the Korean


heightened anxieties over a slowdown in economic growth.

The benchmark

Nikkei 225

index closed down 153.56 to 19,556.46, while the


index, comprising shares listed on the

Tokyo Stock Exchange's

first section, also finished lower 12.06 to 1717.41. The


small-cap index ended the day up 4.04, or 3.6%, to 117.07, while the Nikkei


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shares rose 13.90 to 2436.48.

In addition to worrying about Wall Street, Tokyo investors started the day off with news that a supermarket chain had filed for corporate reorganization over the weekend.


, which saw shares drop 13, or 14.4%, to 77, said liabilities totaled around 380 billion yen ($3.5 billion) due to overexpansion during the go-go bubble era of the 1980s.

Retail shares withered in the aftermath, with



slipping 6, or 1.4%, to 410, and

Seven-Eleven Japan

sliding 710, or 5.1%, to 13,090.

Banks that have supported Nagasakiya over the years also sagged.

Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank

, which loaned 107.6 billion yen to the firm, fell 71, or 7.8%, to 845.

Individual investors were active in the computer and tech sectors Monday, with sales in



leading the way. Sony fell 710, or 2.5%, to 28,000, while



slid 45, or 2.2%, to 2030. However, money flew into companies such as


, which soared 21,000, or 14.2%, to 169,000 and

Hikari Tsushin

, up 17,000, or 8.0%, to 230,000.

The greenback was trading around 108.10 yen on position adjustments from foreign players.

Elsewhere in Asia, Korean equities fell across the board thanks to individual and foreign investor selling, with the Kospi index down 42.35, or 4.4%, to 910.87. The strength in the won, which was trading around 1125.50 against the greenback, had investors worried that exporters would lose much of the won's market share as products become more expensive for overseas consumers.

Volatility in the U.S. markets is also keeping investors at bay in Korea, especially for the electronic sector.

LG Electronics

fell 3600, or 10.6%, to 30,500;

Hyundai Electronics Industries

slid 1400, or 6.3%, to 20,900; and blue-chip

Korea Electric Power


also fell 1900, or 6.6%, to 27,000.

Hong Kong's

Hang Seng

index fell 191.34, or 1.1%, to 17,188.96 but excitement continued around a possible bidding war for

Cable & Wireless HKT


, which soared 4.750, or 21.9%, to 26,400.

One possible contender for Cable & Wireless, currently in merger talks with

Singapore Telecommunications

, is

Pacific Century

. Pacific Century shares have been suspended from trading since Friday after the firm said it would place 250 million shares in the market at $23.50, a 4.7% discount to the last close. Traders have assumed the placement is to raise money for Cable & Wireless.

China Star Enterprise

fell 0.110, or 6.0%, to 1.720, after confirming earlier reports that the firm entered a licensing agreement with



. China Star, which saw shares jump more than 20% on Friday, said it has granted Yahoo! worldwide rights and licenses to broadcast certain movies and television programs.

Meanwhile, sources told

Dow Jones

that the U.S.

Securities and Exchange Commission

will likely approve the public offering of

Petro China

, a unit of

China National Petroleum

, on the

New York Stock Exchange

later today.