Asian markets retreat with investors’ eyes on China

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TOKYO, March 5, 2007 (AFP) – Asian stock markets came under fresh selling pressure in early trade on Monday, tracking Wall Street lower amid continued anxiety about the health of global markets, dealers said. They said that investors in the region were keeping a close watch on the Shanghai market where share prices extended losses in morning trade as a keenly anticipated speech by Premier Wen Jiabao’s provided few new leads.

Tokyo led the way lower with the benchmark Nikkei-225 index down 2.34 percent in mid-afternoon trade, dropping below the 17,000 points level for the first time in almost two months.

Dealers said that exporter shares were hit by a stronger yen, which rose to the highest level for almost three months against the dollar, undercutting the overseas earnings of Japanese companies.

“A short-term bottom is not in sight right now as shares are still on course for a further decline,” said Norihiro Fujito, chief analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities, warning that the 16,000 points level was within range.

The recent slide in Shanghai was a major trigger for the falls in Tokyo, “but concerns about prospects for the US economy are also playing a key role in this downturn,” he adde