TOKYO — Asian stocks slid in early Thursday trading as gyrations on the Tokyo market, the region's biggest, continued — fueled by worries about a surging yen and monetary policies in the U.S. and Japan.
Japanese media reports said overseas hedge funds may be dumping Japan's equities following a disappointment earlier in the week, when the Bank of Japan didn't take additional easing measures to keep economic revival going.
The Nikkei 225 index, which plunged more than 6 percent earlier in the day, was 4.5 percent down by early afternoon to 12,672.70.
Adding to the woes was the dollar's recent fall, trading at about 95 yen Thursday, in a reversal from 100 yen earlier. A cheap yen is a boon for Japan because it helps the nation's giant exporters by raising their overseas revenue when translated into yen.
Elsewhere, the Hang Seng index fell 2.7 percent to 20,775.54, while the Kospi in South Korea lost 1.3 percent to 1,887.33. Benchmarks in Australia, Singapore and Taiwan all fell 1 percent or more.
Mainland Chinese were pummeled as accumulating signs of a slowdown in growth in the world's No. 2 economy caused investors to retreat. The Shanghai Composite Index slid 3 percent to 2,144.74 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 2.9 percent to 954.64.
Japan has been one of the main influences in the markets as investors have scrutinized the authorities' attempts to get the country out of its two-decade stagnation.
In April, the Bank of Japan announced a massive stimulus in an attempt to get inflation up to 2 percent. The euphoria that drove the Nikkei up to five-year highs has since dissipated and the index is now around 20 percent down from its recent peak.
The other major driver in markets has been the uncertainty over the future course of U.S. monetary policy following a solid, if unspectacular, improvement in economic data.
The markets now expect some reduction in the Federal Reserve's monthly asset purchases sometime this year. The stimulus has been one of the main reasons why many assets, such as global stock markets and emerging markets, have bounced back over the past few years.
Analysts said markets will likely remain on edge until next week's Fed policy meeting for greater clarity on the timing and extend of any tapering.
"Risk appetite continues to shrink as the ongoing nervousness over Fed tapering continues to provoke significant position adjustments across markets," Mitul Kotecha of Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong said in a market commentary.
Among individual stocks, Apollo Tyres Ltd., an Indian company, tumbled 13.6 percent after announcing plans to buy American tire maker Cooper Tire & Rubber for $2.5 billion.
Japanese exporters were battered because of the rising yen. Suzuki Motor Corp. sank 6.3 percent. Olympus Corp. slid 6.6 percent. Bridgestone Corp. shed 5.5 percent.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.8 percent, to close at 14,995.23. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.8 percent to 1,612.52. The Nasdaq composite index fell 1.1 percent, to 3,400.43.
In Europe, Wednesday Britain's FTSE 100 index fell 0.6 percent to close at 6,299.45 while Germany's DAX fell 1 percent to 8,143.27. The CAC-40 in France ended 0.4 percent lower at 3,793.70.
The euro rose to $1.3349 from $1.3331 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 95.43 yen in Tokyo, from 95.71 yen.
Benchmark crude oil was down 6 cents at $95.81 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 50 cents to close at $95.88 on the Nymex on Wednesday.