MUMBAI, India – Worries over Russian troops amassing near the Ukraine border sent most Asian stock markets lower Wednesday.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.1 percent to 15,159.79 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 0.5 percent to 24,533.84. The Kospi in Seoul shed 0.3 percent to 2,060.73 and China's Shanghai Composite gave up 0.1 percent to 2,217.24. Markets in Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia and India also lost ground.
UKRAINE JITTERS: Asian traders were following the lead of Wall Street, which dropped after news reports of a buildup of Russian troops on the Ukraine border and comments from a Polish politician who said Russia is poised to invade or militarily pressure Ukraine's eastern border. The developments come after the most recent round of sanctions imposed on Russia by the U.S. and Europe. Russia has reportedly called for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
ANALYST TAKE: Evan Lucas, market strategist at IG in Melbourne, Australia said if Russia increases its presence in eastern Ukraine, then "buyers of all things risk will disappear fast as this is an undefinable event with an undefinable outcome for markets." Energy stocks in particular have been hard hit and this will be the industry to "watch over the next few days as more information flows out of Europe around Russian military positioning."
EYES ON OIL: Benchmark U.S. crude for September delivery was up 15 cents to $97.54 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. With winter a few months away, Europe's recovering economy remains dependent on Russian natural gas for heat and electricity. Germany imports nearly all its natural gas from Russia, and France also gets a significant amount of its energy needs from Russia. "Europe's economy is far more exposed to Russia than the U.S.," said Randy Frederick, a managing director at Charles Schwab.
WALL STREET: The Dow lost 139.81 points, or 0.8 percent, to 16,429.47, the lowest level for the index since mid-May. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 18.78 points, or 1 percent, to 1,920.21 and the Nasdaq composite fell 31.05 points, or 0.7 percent, to 4,352.84.
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CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 102.51 Japanese yen from 102.61 late Tuesday. The euro dipped to $1.3368 from $1.3371.