AFP - Asian stocks fell Wednesday after a plunge on Wall Street, where financial fears eclipsed hope that US President Barack Obama will move quickly to resuscitate the stricken economy.
Investors were alarmed about the problems of teetering banks in the United States and Europe that are expected to require further bailouts, or even nationalisation, which will pile additional pressure on government finances.
Stocks fell "on rising concerns over the solvency of banks in the developed world, in particular in the US," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, chief investment strategist at SJS Markets in Hong Kong.
"The bloodbath resulted from a combination of negative earnings announcements and downgrades of outlook by brokerages, which highlighted the fact that future bank losses will by far exceed recent estimates," he added.
With no Obama rally overnight on Wall Street, Asian markets quickly slipped into the red in early trade, but most finished off their lows of the days.
Tokyo dropped 2.0 percent, Seoul shed 2.1 percent and Sydney slipped 1.0 percent. Hong Kong was down 1.8 percent by midday.
Stocks fell 1.5 percent in Singapore, where the government said the economy shrank an annualised 16.9 percent in the fourth quarter, the worst performance on record.
Singapore's economy will contract between 2.0 and 5.0 percent this year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said, meaning the city-state could be on course for its worst performance since independence in 1965.
On Wall Street Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 4.01 percent, slipping below the key level of 8,000, despite high hopes for Obama's tenure as the 44th president of the United States.
Obama told cheering crowds that an era of economic "greed and irresponsibility" was over and pledged swift and bold action to kickstart the world's biggest economy.
The carnage on Wall Street was concentrated in the financial sector, with Citigroup plunging 20 percent on worries it may require a new bailout or nationalisation.
"Unfortunately things don't look that different from last year," Bryon Burke, adviser at ABN Amro in New Zealand, told Dow Jones Newswires. "Now that everyone is back from holidays, markets are facing up to the same problems."
In Europe, London's FTSE 100 index lost 0.42 percent Tuesday. In Paris the CAC 40 fell 2.15 percent while in Frankfurt the Dax dropped 1.77 percent.
Banking shares dragged down markets worldwide due to concern that further losses will lead to more nationalisation. Concern was focused in Britain where Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds are in trouble again.
In Sydney, BHP Billiton dropped one percent after the world's biggest miner said it would cut about 6,000 jobs because of the global economic downturn and weakening demand for its products.