RTTNews - Dismal U.S. retail sales data dealt a severe blow to hopes of a quick global economic recovery and sent stock prices crashing down on Wall Street on Wednesday. Taking cues, markets across the Asia-Pacific region nose-dived on Thursday, with some key indices plunging to their 2-week lows. Investors across the region opted for the sell button the moment trading commenced this morning, and till now, most of the markets are struggling deep down in the red.

The Australian benchmark S&P/ASX 200 is trading 111.10 points down at 3,745. The All Ordinaries index is trading lower by 111.70 points at 3,731.

Energy and materials stocks are among the biggest losers in the Australian markets. Among key energy stocks Santos and Worleyparsons are down by around 5.3% while Woodside Petroleum is trading lower by 2.35%.

Among materials stocks, Rio Tinto is plunging by over 11% and BHP Billiton is down by about 5%. Newcrest Mining is down nearly 2% and Orica is trading 3% down.

In the banking space, ANZ Bank, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Bank of Australia and Westpac Banking Corporation are trading 1.7% - 2% down from their previous close.

Capital goods stock Leighton Holdings Limited fell sharply after the company reported a 41 percent drop in its nine-month profit to $220 million from $375 million in the previous corresponding period. In the third quarter ending March, the company booked $15 million in asset impairments on top of $170 million of writedowns in the first half. The group is likely to record revenue of around $19 billion and a net profit of $430 million for the year 2008-2009. The stock is currently trading 6% down from its previous close.

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 index is trading 36 points or 1.28% down at 2,775.56.

In Tokyo, bank stocks Resona Holdings, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Bank of Yokohama, Mizuho Financial Group, Shizuoka Bank, Chiba Bank and Shinsei Bank all went down sharply. Fukoka Financial Group and Mizuho Trust & Banking Co. were also exhibiting weakness at the break.

Stocks from insurance, automobile, steel, machinery, energy, communications and healthcare sectors also declined sharply. The Japanese benchmark index Nikkei 225 was down by 237.90 points or 2.55% at 9,103 at the end of the morning session.

The trend is not any different in the Korean market. Key bank stocks are trading sharply lower. Shares from automobiles, oil, energy, shipbuilding, airlines and telecom sectors are struggling in the red. Technology and steel stocks are exhibiting a mixed trend.

The Korean benchmark index KOSPI is trading 32.39 points or 2.29% down at 1,382.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index is down nearly 3.25% or 550 points at 16,510. Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Shanghai are also trading weak with sharp losses.

The stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region had turned in another mixed performance on Wednesday. While Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.6 percent, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 Index closed up 0.5 percent.

Major European markets all saw considerable weakness on the day, with the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index closing down 2.1 percent, while the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index fell 2.4 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively.

On Wall Street, gloomy retail sales data for April triggered heavy selling in shares of retailers. Weak crude oil prices took a toll of energy stocks.

The report from the Commerce Department showed that retail sales unexpectedly fell for the second consecutive month in April after showing back-to-back increases in the first two months of the year. According to the report, retail sales fell 0.4 percent in April following a revised 1.3 percent decrease in March. Economists had expected sales to come in unchanged compared to the 1.2 percent decrease originally reported for the previous month.

In other economic news, a separate report from the Commerce Department showed a continued decrease in business inventories in the month of March. The report showed that business inventories fell 1.0 percent in March following a revised 1.4 percent decrease in February.

The major averages all closed firmly negative, with the Nasdaq ending the session at its worst level of the day. The Dow fell 184.22 points or 2.2 percent to 8,284.89, the Nasdaq closed down 51.73 points or 3 percent at 1,664.19 and the S&P 500 fell 24.43 points or 2.7 percent to 883.92.

Economic data is likely to remain in focus on Thursday. Traders are likely to keep a close eye on the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims report along with its report on wholesale price inflation for the month of April.

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