Asian stocks plunge after US losses

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Asian stocks plunged on Tuesday following heavy Wall Street losses triggered by President Donald Trump’s criticism of the US central bank.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell by an unusually wide margin of 5% to 19,155.14. The Shanghai Composite Index ended off 0.9% at 2,504.82 after being down as much as 2.3% at midday. Benchmarks in Thailand and Taiwan also declined.

Markets in Europe, Hong Kong, Australia and South Korea were closed for Christmas.

Wall Street indexes fell more than 2% on Monday after Mr Trump said on Twitter the Federal Reserve was the US economy’s “only problem”. Efforts by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to calm investor fears only seemed to make matters worse.

US stocks are on track for their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression.

Shanghai is down almost 25% this year. Tokyo, Hong Kong and other markets are on track to end 2018 down more than 10%.

Markets have been roiled by concerns about a slowing global economy, the US-Chinese tariff battle and another interest rate increase by the Fed.

Mr Trump’s Monday morning tweet heightened fears about the economy being destabilised by a president who wants control over the Fed. Its board members are nominated by the president but make decisions independently of the White House. The board’s chairman, Jerome Powell, was nominated by Mr Trump last year.

“The only problem our economy has is the Fed,” the president said on Twitter. “They don’t have a feel for the Market, they don’t understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!”

Financial markets
President Donald Trump was critical of the US central bank (Seth Wenig/AP)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 2.9% while the Nasdaq skidded 2.2%.

On Sunday, Mr Mnuchin made a round of calls to the heads of the six largest US banks, but the move only raised new concerns about the economy.

Most economists expect US economic growth to slow in 2019, not slide into a full-blown recession. But the president has voiced his anger over the Fed’s decision to raise its key short-term rate four times in 2018.

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