Asian stocks retreat on Spain rating downgrade -

Asian stocks retreat on Spain rating downgrade

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Stephen Holden, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with fellow traders, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) By Richard Drew Stephen Holden, center, works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange with fellow traders, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) By Richard Drew

HONG KONG (AP) -- Asian stocks retreated Friday as fears over Europe's debt crisis resurfaced following a downgrade to Spain's long-term debt rating.
Investors also fretted after several European banks had their credit ratings cut and JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported that a slowdown in investment banking hurt results in the third quarter.
They failed to find much solace after Slovakian lawmakers became the last of the 17 nations that use the euro to approve boosting a European Union bailout fund, reversing an earlier rejection.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.8 percent to 8,755.65 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 1.4 percent to 18,496.17. South Korea's Kospi index was flat at 1,823.17.
Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.5 percent to 4,282.30. The Shanghai Composite Index was down 1.1 percent to 2,412.03 after authorities said China's inflation rate eased to 6.1 percent in September but still well above the official target.
Benchmarks in Taiwan and New Zealand also fell while Singapore stocks dipped after government officials lowered the country's 2011 economic growth forecast and warned growth may slow further next year.
"There's an awful lot of reticence to get involved in the markets, particularly from the institutions, ahead of earnings season," said Ben Collett, Hong Kong-based head of Japanese equities at Louis Capital Markets.
With markets so volatile recently amid uncertainty over Europe's debt crisis and company profits, "you need to basically have your foot on the sell button during this earnings season for anything other than better than expected," Collett said.
In cutting Spain's long-term debt rating on Thursday, Standard & Poor cited the country's weak growth prospects and risks facing its banks. The agency said Spain's economy is weighed down by high unemployment, tight credit, heavy private-sector debt loads and prospects that its main trading partners will also stumble.
On the same day, Fitch, another credit ratings agency, downgraded its outlook for three European banks and said it's reviewing ratings for a host of others, citing ongoing exposure to sovereign-debt in Europe's weaker economies and sluggish growth prospects.
The euro fell to $1.3750 from $1.3783 in late trading Thursday. The dollar was little changed at 76.88 yen.
"Too many policy obstacles still lie ahead" regarding the European debt crisis, strategists at Credit Agricole CIB said in a research note, adding that questions remain unanswered over the size of recapitalization needed for European banks and how much of a loss investors will have take on Greek bonds.
Investors also worried that the weak earnings report from JPMorgan Chase -- considered by some to be the strongest U.S. bank -- didn't bode well for earnings reports expected from other financial institutions.
On Thursday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.4 percent to close at 11,478.13. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite rose 0.6 percent to 2,620.24 while the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.3 percent to 1,203.66.
Crude oil for November delivery was up 11 cents to $84.34 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.34 to end at $84.23 on Thursday. Brent crude rose 4 cents to $109.24 a barrel.

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