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Asia stocks tumble, but G20 calms Europe markets

BANGKOK - Investors in Asia dumped stocks Friday as weak economic indicators from major nations intensified fears of a new global recession, although a joint call to action by the Group of 20 nations helped calm markets in Europe.

Oil prices stabilized near $81 a barrel after diving to a near seven-week low on Thursday. The dollar was down against the yen and the euro.

European stocks rose tentatively after a day of steep losses Thursday. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.1 percent to 5,046.44. Germany's DAX rose 0.4 percent to 5,184.14 and the CAC-40 in Paris gained 0.1 percent to 2,784.53.

Wall Street was set for a higher opening after a statement from the Group of 20 major economies pledged a strong and coordinated response to the European debt crisis and weak economic growth in the United States and other countries. Dow Jones industrial futures rose 0.7 percent to 10,727 while S&P futures were 0.8 percent higher at 1,132.70.

Asian shares were pulled down earlier Friday by a raft of bad economic news including signs of a manufacturing downturn in China that could reduce its demand for commodities and industrial components from other nations.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.4 percent to 17,668.83 after losing nearly 5 percent the day before. Taiwan's TAIEX dropped 3.6 percent to close at a two-year low of 7,046.22. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index fell 1.6 percent to 3,903.20.

South Korean shares took a large hit, with the Kospi tumbling 5.7 percent to 1,697.44. Mainland China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,433.16. Japan's market was closed for a holiday.

A closely watched survey in Europe indicated a recession could be on the way there, and a manufacturing survey suggested a slowdown in China, which has been one of the hottest economies. Employment figures in the U.S. remained weak. Adding to the woes: Singapore said Friday that inflation jumped to a three-year high in August as housing and transportation costs rose despite an economic slowdown.

"I think the most important thing is Europe and America are both entering into recession at the same time, and the governments failed to take decisive action to stop the decline," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Holdings Ltd. in Hong Kong. "Investors are disappointed and fear a global recession. So that's why investors are getting out of shares."

Lun also blamed "political squabbling" in the U.S. that is preventing President Barack Obama from spending the money needed to create a jobs program with real impact.

Meanwhile, Canada's finance minister had harsh words for Europe. On Thursday, he warned of a second financial meltdown on the scale of 2008 if Europe doesn't take decisive action to recapitalize its banks and deal with the Greek debt crisis.

"There's some justified frustration with respect to the lack of political decisiveness in Europe," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said. "The markets are reacting."

Flaherty said Greece and other severely indebted nations must be made to follow through with austerity programs to bring down spending, and Europe must put up the billions of dollars that will be needed to ensure banks don't fail.

In Hong Kong trade, Zijin Mining Group Co., China's biggest gold miner, fell 7.8 percent amid a price drop in the precious metal as investors sold gold to raise cash.

Stocks in Seoul slumped amid signs of weakness in China. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., the world's biggest shipbuilder, slumped 8.1 percent. Hynix Semiconductor, the world's second-largest memory chip maker, fell 6 percent. Steel giant POSCO fell 6.2 percent.

A slowdown in China could also blunt demand for imported raw materials like iron ore. Australia's Fortescue Metals Group, a leading exporter of iron ore, plummeted 9.3 percent.

Energy shares were whipped by the tumble in oil prices. Australian oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd. sank 3.6 percent. China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as CNOOC, fell 1.3 percent.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 3.5 percent to close at 10,733.83. It was the second consecutive rout in the stock market since Wednesday afternoon, when the Federal Reserve announced a change in strategy for fighting the economic slowdown.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index, a broader measure of the stock market, and the Nasdaq composite, which is more heavily weighted with technology stocks, both fell more than 3 percent for the day.

The Fed announced Wednesday that it would shuffle $400 billion of its own bond holdings in hopes of reducing interest rates on long-term loans, a plan known as Operation Twist. The central bank hopes that if people and businesses are able to borrow money more cheaply, they will spend throughout the economy and give it a lift.

CBS MoneyWatch's Jill Schlesinger offers a quick primer on the Fed's strategy, known as "Operation Twist":

Still, the Fed announcement troubled investors because it came with a bleak assessment of the future. The Fed said it sees "significant downside risks to the economic outlook," including volatility in overseas markets.

Benchmark oil for November delivery was up 39 cents at $80.89 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude plunged $5.41, or 6.3 percent, to settle at $80.51 on Thursday. That was its lowest point since Aug. 9.

In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3530 from $1.3469 late Thursday in New York. Earlier on Thursday, the euro fell to $1.3384 — its lowest point since Jan. 18. The dollar slipped to 76.26 yen from 76.40 yen.

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