The rout continues.
Major Asian stock markets fell Friday as investors continued to dump riskier assets. Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 5.3% to its lowest level in more than 15 months. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 1% after plunging 3.9% the day before.
The falls in Asia follow losses in U.S. and European markets on Thursday amid worries over low oil prices and the health of the banking sector.
The Japanese stock market had been closed for a public holiday Thursday, so it had missed a full day of brutal trading. Stocks in Tokyo have been hammered this week as investors have turned to assets considered safer bets, like government bonds and Japan’s currency, the yen.
The yen’s recent surge — it’s now at its strongest level against the dollar since October 2014 — is bad news for big Japanese companies because it hurts exports. It also undermines efforts by the Bank of Japan to stimulate the country’s struggling economy.
The central bank cut a key interest rate into negative territory two weeks ago, a move that triggered a drop in the yen. But that decline has been more than offset since then by the yen’s gains, underscoring the challenges facing central banks in the current turmoil.
Cheap oil has continued to alarm investors.
U.S. crude oil plunged below the threshold of $27 a barrel Thursday, hurting stocks. It later recovered somewhat and climbed back above $27 a barrel after Dow Jones reported comments from an official from the United Arab Emirates about the possibility output cuts.
On Friday morning in Asia, it was trading around $27.50 a barrel.
Mainland Chinese stock markets have been closed all week for the Lunar New Year holiday. The Shanghai and Shenzhen markets will reopen Monday.