Asian stocks joined a global sell-off Wednesday with risk sentiment drooping amid growing concerns the U.S. and its allies were moving closer to a military strike against Syria.
Japan's Nikkei fell 2.3% at 12:59 p.m. Tokyo time.
According to reports, governments of the U.S., France and Britain were getting ready for an armed response against Syria for "indiscriminate use of chemical weapons" against its civilians.
U.S. defense secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. has “assets in place” and forces are “ready to go”, while a British government spokesperson Christian Cubitt told reporters that British forces are making "contingency plans ".
Overnight, Wall Street as well as European markets closed with sharp losses as investors worried about escalating geopolitical tensions. The Syrian conflict has only added to the broad selloff witnessed in recent days amid speculations the U.S. Federal Reserve would start tapering its stimulus measures soon.
Meanwhile, oil and gold prices have jumped to multi-month highs as the ongoing Syrian conflict has prompted investors to flock to safe-haven assets.
Among currencies, the Indian rupee extended its downfall today, plunging to a new record low of 67.42 agains the dollar. Emerging market currencies have been under tremendous pressure over the past few weeks on Fed's tapering worries. The Rupee has slid around 20% against the dollar so far this year. The Turkish lira has fallen 14% while Brazil's real has dropped over 17% since the beginning of this year.
Stocks on the Move
Tokyo listed stocks hit a two-month low, with exporters leading the declines. Mazda Motor fell 3.5%, Sony Corp. erased 3.8% and Toshiba Corp. lost 2.6%.
Steel players Kobe Steel and JFE Holdings retreated over 3% each while brokerage house Nomura Holdings tumbled more than 4%.
The rout extended across the region. In Hong Kong, property developers were worst hit. China Resources Land plunged 4.8%, Poly Property Group dropped 4% while New World Development declined 2.4%.
Airline stocks were also trading with sharp losses. China Eastern Airlines lost over 4% while Air China gave up around 3%.
Resources added to the losses -- Angang Steel retreated 3.5%, Jiangxi Copper fell 2.4 while oil giant PetroChina dropped 4.4% and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. slipped 2.2%.
Sydney-listed miners dragged the resource-heavy benchmark index. Index leader BHP Billiton traded down 2.2% while close rival Rio Tinto retreated 2.7%. Fortescue Metals Group slumped over 4%.
In Mumbai, ONGC tanked 8.8%, HDFC tumbled 6.3%, BHEL fell 5.6% while HDFC Bank slipped 5.5%. Among other banks, ICICI Bank lost over 5% and SBI retreated 3.7%.
Investors in Mumbai were worried that the recently passed Food Security Bill, aimed at providing cheap foodgrains to the poor, would only add to the country's fiscal deficit.