Asian stocks slid Monday after Wall Street suffered its biggest weekly loss in more than two years following another slump in oil prices. Weak data from Japan and a hostage situation in Australia's largest city added to the cautious sentiment.
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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 was down 1.2 percent at 17,158.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 1.6 percent to 22,891.10 and Seoul's Kospi shed 0.7 percent to 1,908.99. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.9 percent to 5,170.50 as a hostage situation that may be politically motivated unfolded in a cafe in central Sydney. China's Shanghai Composite was down 1 percent at 2,906.67. Markets in Taiwan, Singapore and Indonesia also fell.
JAPAN ELECTIONS: Japan's ruling coalition won a convincing victory in lower house elections Sunday, giving Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democrats up to four more years to pursue economic and political reforms. But the "tankan" business survey released Monday highlighted challenges facing Abe's government. More than two-thirds of the large and medium-sized companies surveyed said they viewed the outlook for the coming quarter as "not so favorable." Japanese businesses anticipate weak demand at home and overseas for their products and higher costs for materials thanks to the weakening Japanese yen.
OIL SLUMP: Another rout in oil prices shook financial markets Friday after the International Energy Agency said global demand will grow less than previously forecast next year. The news drove crude down for the fourth day in five. Oil has now fallen 47 percent since reaching a peak of $107 in June this year. On Monday, benchmark U.S. crude was down 68 cents at $57.12 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Lower oil prices should be positive for many countries but there are also worries the recent plunge is a sign of a sickly global economy.
SYDNEY SIEGE: A hostage situation is unfolding inside a cafe in Australia's largest city, with the nation's prime minister saying it may be "politically motivated." Television footage of the cafe showed several people inside with their arms in the air and hands pressed against its windows, and two people holding up what appeared to be a black flag with white Arabic writing on it. The cafe is located in Martin Place, a plaza in the heart of Sydney's financial and shopping district. It is home to the state premier's office, the Reserve Bank of Australia, and the headquarters of two of the nation's largest banks.
WALL STREET: The stock market fell sharply Friday as investors worried that slumping oil demand is signaling that growth outside of the U.S. is weaker than earlier thought. While consumers and airlines will benefit from lower fuel prices, energy companies will see their earnings suffer. Some may even go out of business. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 33 points, or 1.6 percent, to 2,002.33. The index dropped 3.5 percent over the week, its biggest decline since May 2012. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 315.51 points, or 1.8 percent, to 17,280.83. The Nasdaq composite dropped 54.57 points, or 1.2 percent, to 4,653.60.
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CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 118.75 yen from 118.83 yen late Friday. The euro fell to $1.2449 from $1.2464.