Asian stocks fall on global fears
Asian stock markets have fallen as Japanese business confidence dropped and fears grew of a global economic slowdown.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index shed 1.3% to 8,409.30, South Korea's Kospi index lost 1.6% to 1,828.15, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng tumbled 2% to 17,991.17.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 dropped 1.7% to 4,119.90, and benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and mainland China were also lower.
In Japan, confidence at major manufacturers fell over the last quarter. The Bank of Japan's "tankan" survey of business sentiment fell to minus four. The figure represents the percentage of companies saying business conditions are good minus those saying conditions are unfavourable, with 100 representing the best mood and minus 100 the worst.
Japan's strong yen has hit multiple historic highs this year against the dollar, making business conditions difficult for Japan's export-reliant economy.
On Wall Street, stocks plummeted on Wednesday amid a growing sense that Europe's leaders have failed to contain that region's debt crisis.
Since European leaders reached an agreement to rein in future government budget deficits last week, investors and credit rating agencies have criticised the deal for failing to address current problems. Italy had to pay higher borrowing rates in its last bond auction of the year on Wednesday.
The eurozone's third-largest economy paid 6.47% interest to borrow three billion euro for five years, up from 6.30% a month ago. The higher rates make it more expensive for Italy to borrow money and reflect rising doubts that the country will be able to repay its debts.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.1% to close at 11,823.48, Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 1.1% to 1,211.82, and the Nasdaq fell 1.6% to 2,539.31.
Benchmark oil for January delivery was up three cents at 94.98 dollars per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract declined 5.19 dollars to finish at 94.95 dollars per barrel on the Nymex. In currency trading, the euro rose to 1.2985 dollars from 1.2977 late on Wednesday in New York. The dollar was nearly unchanged at 78.06 yen from 78.07 yen.