Asian Stock Markets Climb

HONG KONG (AP) - Most Asian stock markets climbed Tuesday, with
oil companies gaining on the back of stronger crude prices, but
Japanese shares flirted with a new 26-year low amid ongoing worries
about the global slowdown.

Hong Kong stocks led the region's modest advance as reeling
banking giant HSBC rebounded after the government said it was
probing a massive drop in the company's shares the day before.

Rises across the region followed Europe but ran counter to the
U.S., where Wall Street continued to skid on fears about the depth
of the recession in the world's largest economy.

Investors, overcome with anxiety about financial companies and
the global economy in recent weeks, were still on edge. The
region's stocks have fallen along with world equity markets as
investors were shaken by the possibility that the magnitude of the
slowdown in Asia's export-dependent economies is far greater than
expected.

The toll on Asia from the slowdown in industrialized Western
economies was underscored by signs of distress in China, where
government figures showed Tuesday that trade and consumer prices
both fell last month amid the global economic crisis.

"Investors are getting a sense that we're really in worse shape
than we originally thought," said Andrew Orchard, Asian strategist
for Royal Bank of Scotland in Hong Kong. "People are losing heart
that there might not be an effective response and quick recovery."

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average fell 38.23 points, or 0.5
percent, to 7,047.80. The day before it sank to 7,086.03 - the
lowest closing level since Oct. 6, 1982 when the index finished at
6,974.35. Markets in Malaysia and the Philippines also were lower.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng added 341.46, or 3 percent, to
11,686.04, lifted by a 15 percent recovery in HSBC after its 24
percent tumble on Monday. South Korea's Kospi added 1.1 percent to
1,083.79. Australian and Singapore benchmarks also rose.

Overnight in New York, a $41 billion merger between drugmakers
Merck & Co. and Schering-Plough failed to generate much enthusiasm
among investors fixated on the worst recession in decades.

The Dow fell 79.89, or 1.2 percent, to 6,547.05. The Standard &
Poor's 500 index lost 6.85, or 1 percent, to 676.53, while the
Nasdaq composite index fell 25.21, or 2 percent, to 1,268.64.

U.S. futures pointed to modest gains on Wall Street.

In currencies, the dollar inched up to 98.93 yen from 98.90 yen.


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