Crisis in Europe and U.S. Hurts Asian Economies
HONG KONG — Weak economic data from several Asian countries on Thursday highlighted the accelerating decline of growth in the region, mainly because of sagging demand from recession-struck Europe and the United States.
In China, economic growth slowed sharply in the fourth quarter, to 6.8 percent, and to 9 percent for all of 2008, down from 13 percent in 2007, the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics reported. And the South Korean economy shrank 3.4 percent in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier.
The figures — particularly those from Japan and South Korea — were much worse than economists had projected, showing how hard it has become to assess the effect of the global slowdown.
Asia, once thought to have been relatively well insulated because of its limited exposure to American subprime mortgages, is now caught up in the worsening economic slowdown. Economies in the region have seen a pillar of economic growth — exports to the United States and Europe — collapse as consumer and corporate spending shrinks.
Richard Jerram, an economist at Macquarie in Tokyo, said that the Japan export figures were “predictably terrible.”
The slowdown in China has cooled hopes that demand from that giant economy might cushion the downturn in neighboring countries, and data Thursday heralded more pain to come as companies around Asia lower output and costs in response to sagging sales.
On Thursday, the Sony Corporation warned that it would probably post a net loss of 150 billion yen, or $1.7 billion, for the year ending in March. This is the first such loss for Sony in 14 years and represents a sharp reversal from the 370-billion-yen profit in the previous 12 months.