Asian Stocks Suffer from Fears of Syria Intervention


Asian markets were mostly lower Tuesday, tracking losses in Wall Street amid fears of U.S. military intervention in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Syria it would face action over the "moral obscenity" of a chemical weapons attack, as expectations grow that Washington and its allies are preparing to launch a punitive missile strike.

Hong Kong stocks fell 0.24 percent, while Sydney fell 0.08 percent with sentiment hurt also by poor Australian earnings results. Surfwear retailer Billabong International plunged 10.6 percent while Seven Group dived 9.6 percent.

Tokyo stocks were flat by the morning break as bargain-hunting helped erase early losses.

"Lower futures (contracts), a lower dollar, lower Wall Street stocks, and the heightened probability of an internationalised Syrian conflict should send the market at least modestly lower today," said SMBC Nikko Securities analyst Hiroichi Nishi.

Shanghai shares were also flat in morning trade, slipping 0.01 percent, as the market took a breather following a rise of nearly two percent the previous session, dealers said.

Singapore was down 0.70 percent and Taiwan fell 0.29 percent. Seoul gained 0.34 percent.

Oil prices rose over fears of renewed instability in the Middle East. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate for delivery in October, rose 57 cents to $106.49, and Brent North Sea crude for October added 45 cents to $111.18.

Kelly Teoh, market strategist at IG Markets Singapore, said investors were anticipating some kind of U.S. action against Syria.

"Over the last couple of days we have seen footage (of the alleged chemical attack) and it's really heinous," she told Agence France Presse. "It depends on whether the world will get together and stop this. Investors are digesting that."

The dollar fell to 98.14 against the yen compared with 98.51 in the U.S. late Monday. The euro bought $1.3371 and 131.46 yen, compared to $1.3369 and 131.68 yen.

U.S. stocks closed lower Monday following Kerry's comments with the Dow Jones index shedding 64.05 points (0.43 percent) to 14,946.46.

Stocks were also under pressure after the Commerce Department reported new orders for U.S. durable manufactured goods plunged 7.3 percent in July, much sharper than the expected drop of 5.0 percent.

Gold rose to $1,397.40 at 0300 GMT Tuesday, up from $1,394.40 late Monday.

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