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Asian Markets Fall After Sharp Losses On Wall Street

A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index on Thursday in Tokyo.
Eugene Hoshiko
A man looks at an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index on Thursday in Tokyo.

Stock markets in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea experienced sharp losses Thursday on the heels of Wednesday's 608-point plunge in the Dow Jones that wiped out gains for the year.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index plunged nearly 4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, affected by declines in semiconductor-makers and other tech shares, fell nearly 2.5 percent before ultimately recovering and closing down 1 percent.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's stock exchange fell 2 percent. India's Sensex fell nearly a percentage point.

However, the Shanghai Composite ended up slightly for the day, despite China's markets being down 30 percent since the start of 2018.

Wednesday was rough for all the U.S. major indexes, especially the Nasdaq. The tech-heavy index closed down 4.4 percent — the largest single-day loss in seven years.

The index's tech giants felt the plunge: Facebook lost 5.4 percent; Amazon, 6 percent; Apple, 3.4 percent; and Netflix was down 9.4 percent.

"What makes the latest volatility more troubling is that it's been difficult to identify one specific cause," Kerry Craig, global markets strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, told Bloomberg.

Volatility in U.S. markets has weighed on Asia for some time as trade tensions between the U.S. and China heighten. It's also the middle of corporate earnings season — a time when publicly traded companies must tell the world how they're doing — and some companies are forecasting slower demand, making some shareholders wary.

Interest rates are also climbing higher.

"Meanwhile, central banks will continue to get top billing as the Fed pushes on with normalizing interest rates and the European Central Bank is set to end its bond purchase scheme by year end," Craig said.

Some investors, including David Meier, a portfolio manager at Motley Fool Asset Management, say the sense that stock prices have simply reached their peak is driving the markets, too.

"Volatility is going to be the name of the game for some time. All this has to shake out, and then investor confidence has to be restored," Meier told NPR on Wednesday.

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