Asian stocks tumble after Wall Street declines amid worries about lower corporate profits



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BEIJING — Asian stock markets were mostly lower Wednesday after Wall Street tumbled on concern about weak corporate earnings as investors watched this week's meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 1.4 percent to 3,306.56 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.3 percent to 24,734.20. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.1 percent to 17,742.14 and Seoul's Kospi also was off 0.1 percent at 1,950.68. Sydney fell while Singapore was little changed.

WALL STREET: Prices slumped after companies including Microsoft, Caterpillar and Procter & Gamble reported disappointing earnings. An unexpected decline in U.S. orders of durable goods also fueled concern about the American economy's ability to drive earnings if global growth weakens. Investors also are starting to worry that U.S. exports might be handicapped by the dollar's recent strength. The Dow dropped 1.7 percent to close at 17,387.21. It is now 3.7 percent below its record high of 18,053.71 on Dec. 26. The Standard & Poor's 500 lost 1.3 percent to 2,029.56. The Nasdaq composite dropped 1.9 percent to 4,681.50.

U.S. ECONOMY: The Fed holds its first policy meeting of 2015 this week after winding down its massive monetary stimulus. Investors are looking for signs of whether possible economic weakness might prompt Fed governors to postpone interest rate hikes that had been expected in the first half of this year.

THE QUOTE: "Having rallied to record highs over the past ten days on the ECB stimulus announcement, global markets have finally become concerned about the currency wars and the effect it has on corporate earnings — particularly in the U.S.," said strategist Evan Lucas of IG Markets in a report. As for the Fed, "the question now becomes when will we see a rate rise?"

SINGAPORE: The country's central bank, the Monetary Authority of Singapore, reduced the slope of the band within which the Singapore dollar is allowed to gradually appreciate due to lower inflation expectations. It expressed caution about domestic growth, saying a weaker global economy would weigh on exports.

EUROPE: Greece's new left-wing prime minister picked a critic of European Union bailout terms as his finance minister, signaling his resolve to push for lenders to write off part of its debt. But concern about a confrontation between the European Union and the newly elected Syriza party, which vowed to end painful austerity measures, eased after both sides said they were open to negotiation.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude was down 81 cents to $45.42 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract added $1.08 on Tuesday to close at $46.23. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 62 cents to $48.98 after gaining $1.44 on Tuesday.

CURRENCY: The dollar rose to 118.10 yen from Tuesday's 117.80 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1336 from the previous session's $1.1362.

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