Asian Shares Mostly Lower As Recession Concerns Mount

Asian stocks moved mostly lower during trading on Thursday as another round of weak U.S. data fueled worries of a U.S. recession.

U.S. private employers hired far fewer workers than expected in March and growth in the country’s service sector activity slowed by much more than expected in the month, adding to the gloom surrounding the economic outlook.

With many global markets likely to remain closed on Good Friday, investors avoided taking big positions ahead of the long weekend.

Chinese shares fluctuated before ending little changed with a negative bias. The downside was capped after a private survey showed activity in China’s services sector grew at the fastest pace in two and a half years in March on robust new orders and job creation.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed 0.3 percent higher at 20,331.20 after a choppy session.

Japanese shares fell sharply to reach two-week lows after the yen gained overnight, leading to a sell-off in export-oriented stocks. The Nikkei 225 Index slumped 1.1 percent to 27,507.65, while the broader Topix closed 0.9 percent lower at 1,965.74.

Automaker Mazda Motor led losses to close 5 percent lower, while chip-making equipment maker Tokyo Electron lost 4.5 percent. Utilities outperformed, with Tokyo Electric Power Holdings jumping 2.3 percent.

Seoul stocks tumbled as tech shares suffered heavy losses on signs of a weakening U.S. economy and growing recession fears. The Kospi tumbled 1.4 percent to 2,459.23.

SK Hynix, LG Energy Solution and Samsung Electronics dropped 1-2 percent, while Samsung Biologics rallied 2.2 percent.

Australian markets snapped a seven-session winning streak, dragged down by technology and real estate stocks. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 0.3 percent to 7,214.90, while the broader All Ordinaries Index settled 0.4 percent lower at 7,407.50.

Across the Tasman, New Zealand’s benchmark S&P/NZX-50 Index rose 0.2 percent to 11,886.63.

Indian shares were seeing modest gains after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) unexpectedly kept interest rates unchanged.

U.S. stocks ended mostly lower overnight and Treasury yields hit seven-month lows as weak readings on private sector employment and service sector activity fanned fears of a recession.

The Dow inched up 0.2 percent, led by Johnson & Johnson, while the S&P 500 slipped 0.3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite fell 1.1 percent.

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