Asian stocks slide on gloomy US news

BEIJING: Asian stock markets fell for a third day Thursday after a Wall Street sell-off on signs of weakness in the U.S. housing market triggered fears about the health of the global recovery.

Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul all lost about 2 percent or more after a U.S. government report showed new home sales fell unexpectedly in September for the first time since March. That fueled fears the housing rebound was driven solely by government policies that are being withdrawn before the private sector recovers.

"This really increased nervousness about the health of the global recovery and market valuations," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist for SJS Markets in Hong Kong.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index was down 200.2 points, or 2 percent, at 9,879.37 points while China's benchmark Shanghai Composite Index shed 2.1 percent to 2,967.52.

Taiwan's Taiex suffered the region's biggest decline, falling 3 percent, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was down 2.4 percent at 21,235.88.

Adding to investor nervousness was Norway's decision Wednesday to become the first European country to raise interest rates since the crisis began, Kowalczyk said. That prompted worries governments might be withdrawing stimulus measures before private sector activity has fully recovered, he said.

"Concerns are that if this support wanes or is withdrawn and the private sector is unable to replace government monetary actions, there could be another economic slump," Kowalczyk said.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi fell 2.2 percent, Australia's benchmark was off 2.5 percent and Singapore's market dropped 0.8 percent.

Wall Street was hit Wednesday by a government report that showed September sales of new homes falling by a 3.6 percent seasonally adjusted annual rate of 402,000. Economists had expected 440,000.

The Dow fell 119.48, or 1.2 percent, to 9,762.69. The index is down in five of the past seven days.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 20.78, or 2 percent, to 1,042.63. The Nasdaq dropped 56.48, or 2.7 percent, to 2,059.61.

Those falls were despite a separate U.S. government report that showed durable goods orders rose in line with expectations in September.

Also Wednesday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its forecast of U.S. economic output in the July-September quarter from an annual rate of 3 percent to 2.7 percent. The government is due to report quarterly growth Thursday, and economists are looking for growth at an annual rate of 3.3 percent after a record four straight quarters of contraction.

Oil prices slid to near $77 a barrel in Asia as an unexpected jump in U.S. gasoline supplies cast doubt on the strength of a recovery in crude demand.

Benchmark crude for December delivery was down 31 cents to $77.14 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.09 to settle at $77.46 on Wednesday.

In currencies, the dollar yen to 90.29 yen from 90.64 yen. The euro rose to $1.4717 from $1.4714.