Asian stocks fall after Wall Street rally stalls

Asian stocks fall after Wall Street rally stalls

23 December, 13:33 175

AFP: Most Asian markets fell Friday following a retreat on Wall Street and as oil prices weakened on the last trading day before Christmas.

Regional stocks mirrored negative sentiment globally, with shares of US retailers falling sharply Thursday on anxiety about the holiday shopping period, and European stocks under pressure over worries about Italy's ailing Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank.

Hong Kong, Shanghai and Sydney were all down Friday amid muted sentiment ahead of the holiday, although Seoul posted a modest rise, while Tokyo was closed for a public holiday.

Oil was also struggling Friday, with both contracts down.

Asian markets were hit after the Dow's closely monitored quest to hit 20,000 points hit another roadblock Thursday, with declines by retailers Wal-Mart Stores and Home Depot contributing to the index's second straight fall.

But volume was depressed due to many traders taking a vacation ahead of the holiday weekend.

The yen -- which has fallen sharply against the greenback since Donald Trump's shock US presidential election win in November -- rose against the dollar Friday as the greenback's rally stalled.

However, analysts tipped the US currency to build on its recent strength in the New Year.

"Going into next year, we are confident the dollar will continue to make headway. It will be the currency that appreciates in 2017, it's just a question of how much," Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Standard Life Investments in Edinburgh, told Bloomberg News.

- Italy bank bailout -

Observers are widely betting Trump's plans for a fiscal stimulus will stoke growth in the world's largest economy, and speculation of higher spending has already sent the dollar to near a 14-year high against the euro.

Mainland Chinese investors have been fretting over a weakening yuan, which has plunged 13 percent against the greenback since its peak in January 2014.

The world's second largest economy is also facing massive capital outflows as investors seek better and more stable investments abroad.

The mood in Asia was not helped despite news Friday the Italian government has approved a bailout plan to rescue the country's struggling banks on Friday, with Monte dei Paschi di Siena (BMPS) likely the first in line to receive state aid.

BMPS is at the centre of a crisis in Italy's financial sector, which includes some 700 banks and is buckling under the weight of bad loans estimated to total 360 billion euros.

The plight of the stricken Italian lender has sparked fears of a possible rekindling of the eurozone debt crisis.

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