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Kim Jong Il's death sinks Asian markets

December 19, 2011 |  8:50 am

Investors in Asia reacted to the death of North Korean leader Kim JJong Il, sinking markets from Japan to Australia
Asia was supposed to be a bright spot for a global economy shaken by the financial troubles of the West.

But the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is a reminder of how unreliable that assumption may be.

Kim's death raises a massive geopolitical question about the stability of a region deeply intertwined with the U.S. economically and militarily. Investors in Asia reacted accordingly Monday, sinking markets from Japan to Australia.

Seoul's Kospi recovered slightly from a 4.9% freefall in the morning to close down 3.4%. Tokyo's Nikkei stock average fell 1.3%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 1.2%, and the Shanghai Composite lost 0.3%.

Other markets seeing a decline in shares included Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia and New Zealand.

"Markets hate uncertainty, and Kim Jong Il's death adds uncertainty to an already uneasy global economy," Keith Ducker, a San Francisco-based chief investment officer at technology operator TORA, told MarketWatch. "Instability in North Korea leadership would clearly be a negative for Asia investment.”

The news of Kim's death comes at a time when Japan's economy is still riddled with uncertainty following its March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. The country's economy grew slower than expected in the third quarter and faces a steep decline in exports to Europe.

China, the world's second-largest economy, is just as vulnerable in terms of exports, but complicating Beijing's situation is how to rein in a property bubble without derailing economic growth.

Three months of declining national housing prices has made investors worried that the central government will tighten monetary policy too much. Stubbornly high inflation means a repeat of the post-2008 financial crisis stimulus plan is unlikely -- sharpening the view that the Chinese economy is beginning a long-term slowdown.

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-- David Pierson in Beijing

Photo: South Koreans watch a news report about the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il on TVs at the Yongsan Electronic shop in Seoul. Ahn Young-joon / Associated Press

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