Crimea vote hits Asian stocks

Asian stocks fell on Monday in morning trade as western nations disputed Crimea’s vote to break with Ukraine to join Russia and issued fresh warnings of imminent sanctions against Moscow.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index lost 0.3% to 134 as of 10:06 a.m. in Tokyo, extending last week’s 3.5% slump. Japan’s Topix index slid 0.5%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index fell 0.1% and New Zealand’s NZX 50 Index dropped 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.2%.  Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.09%, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index was up 0.44%.

Preliminary results show that more than 95% of voters in Crimea chose to leave Ukraine and become part of Russia in a referendum deemed illegal by the European Union and the US. Western countries have threatened to ratchet up sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t back down on annexing Crimea.

In another development, from today, China will double the limit for the yuan’s daily moves against the dollar, easing controls on the exchange rate as appreciation bets waned amid slower economic growth. Economists at UBS AG, Bank of America Corp., JP Morgan Chase and Nomura Holdings Inc. have slashed forecasts for Chinese growth after disappointing data fuelled speculation the nation may not meet its 7.5% economic-expansion target for 2014.

In corporate news, Aeon Co. plunged 4.4% in Tokyo after Japan’s biggest retailer posted profit that trailed estimates.