Sell-Off Turns Asian Dealers' Screens Red; Market Report in Hong Kong

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Byline: RAY HEATH

TECHNOLOGY stocks crashed to record lows on Asian markets as investors panicked on fears of collapsing earnings, and the sell-off turned dealers' screens red.

In Japan, economic woes added to the black outlook for telecoms, media and technology stocks. In Hong Kong, locally quoted Chinese mobile phone operators led a rout of nearly 3% of the Hang Seng index, while South Korea's semiconductor manufacturers hit new lows and dragged the market down by 3.75%.

The mayhem followed last Friday's slump in New York, which took Nasdaq's loss for the week to more than 7%.

Earnings warnings that hammered US stocks have been echoed in Asia, which relies on American orders for much of its technology output.

Markets are also braced for a string of bad news this week from big US technology players, led by hand-phones giant Motorola and Applied Micro Devices, the number two chipmaker, which warned last week that earnings would be below earlier estimates.

Asian investors who thought the worst had already been priced into the region's technology counters have suddenly found that conditions can still get worse, and have headed for the exits.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 lost 241.97 points early on, sparking fears that it could fall through the 12,000 it last saw in March, before recovering slightly to close 66.4 points down at 12,239.68.

Japan's big names led the falls, with Sony, Fujitsu, NEC and Toshiba tumbling between 1.5% and 4%, while Kyocera, a big supplier of raw materials to chipmakers, dived by 4%, extending its week's loss to 13%.

Investors in Japanese stocks were also fretting about the amount of pain that will be inflicted on the economy by the reforms being pushed through by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. …