Asian stocks fell to a five-month low after U.S home construction and manufacturing numbers added concern that the world's largest economy is in recession.

The Nikkei 225 average tumbled 2.7% to 13,412.20, its lowest level since 2005 while the broader Topix index dropped 2.1% to 1,302.46.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 Index slipped 2.6 percent to 5,645.40 Sydney, its 10th-straight decline. New Zealand's NZX 50 Index dropped 2.2 percent to 3,646.54, its 12th day of losses.

Earlier today U.S. shares plunged with Exxon Mobil, General Electric and Bank of America leading the drop after the Federal Reserve said manufacturing in the Philadelphia region slid to a six-year low.

Home construction fell 14 percent, the U.S. Commerce Department said yesterday, larger than what most analyst expected.

Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told Congress the economy is ``suffering'' and that a stimulus package would help bolster growth.

He repeated that he's ready to respond to the faltering expansion after cutting the main interest rate by 1 percentage point since September.

The Standard & Poor's 500 Index lost 2.9 percent, to 1,333.25 and is down 9.2 percent this year after tumbling 5.9 percent the past three days.

Financial stocks also suffered after Merrill Lynch reported a record loss of $9.83 billion, more than double expectations. The biggest U.S. brokerage wrote down $16.7 billion of assets infected by subprime mortgages, joining the America's biggest securities firms in reporting losses amid Wall Street's worst quarter ever.

Crude oil for February delivery gave up as much as 41 cents tot $89.72 a barrel after shedding 71 cents to $90.13 a barrel Thursday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.