Asian trade: Asian markets opened lower for the first trading session of the week and the S&P futures moved somewhere lower, after a report showed the Japanese economy contracted more than expected in the fourth quarter.

The news of the night is that the Japanese economy contracted 3.3% in nominal terms in Q4 2008, the most since 1974. The biggest drag for the GDP came from the trade balance, where exports plunged a whopping 13.9% just from one quarter ahead. The Japanese economy was built around its export market, and the tough worldwide conditions means there is almost no foreign demand for the Japanese made goods.

In comparison, the U.S. GDP contracted 1% over the same period, but some suggest this number might be downgraded. The Euro-area economy contracted 1.5% in Q4, the most since 1995. According to latest forecasts, the Japanese economy will probably continue to contract at comparable speed in the coming quarters. The fact that the Japanese government has its hands tied, only adds more downward pressure on these forecasts.

Tonight, the Nikkei fell 16.37 points (0.21%) to 7,763.03. The Australian S&P lost 35.30 points (0.99%) to 3,523.80.

Crude oil trades near the lowest value touched in the last few weeks. Crude oil for March delivery rose $0.10 to $37.45.

Gold fell tonight for the first time in the last few days. Bullion for immediate delivery lost $2.50 to $939.70.