HONG KONG- Asian markets mostly fell on Monday as growing fears of a conflict between Ukraine and Russia sent traders scurrying for safer assets, with the yen surging and oil prices also seeing big gains.
The downbeat atmosphere was compounded in some markets by another disappointing set of manufacturing figures from China that added to concerns about growth in the world’s number two economy.
Tokyo shed 1.27 percent, or 188.84 points, to 14,652.23, Sydney fell 0.38 percent, or 20.5 points, to 5,384.3 and Seoul lost 0.77 percent, or 15.30 points, to end at 1,964.69.
Hong Kong tumbled 1.47 percent, or 336.29 points to 22,500.67.
However, Shanghai rose 0.92 percent, or 18.93 points, to 2,075.23 as investors brushed off the weak manufacturing figures ahead of Beijing’s annual policy gathering later in the week.
The long-running political crisis in Ukraine took another turn Saturday when lawmakers in Moscow voted to allow President Vladimir Putin to send troops into Crimea, a mainly Russian-speaking peninsula in the southeast of the ex-Soviet state.
In what has become the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War, global leaders condemned the move as Ukraine’s new Western-backed prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned: “We are on the brink of a disaster.”
US President Barack Obama branded the move a “violation of Ukrainian sovereignty”, while Secretary of State John Kerry warned Moscow faced being kicked out of the Group of Eight economic grouping if it did not step back.
Atsushi Hirano, head of FX sales Japan at Royal Bank of Scotland, told Dow Jones Newswires: “Tensions have risen with the United States. Stocks are likely to be negatively affected.”
The tensions sent investors scurrying to the yen, which is considered a safe bet in times of political and economic uncertainty. In afternoon trade the dollar was at 101.33 yen, compared with 101.76 yen in New York Friday afternoon, while the euro fetched 139.51 yen against 140.44 yen.
The euro bought $1.3777 against $1.3800.