Stocks, oil skid on growth anxiety, China data little help

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SYDNEY (Oct 13): Asian stocks stumbled to seven-month lows on Monday, while crude oil prices were pinned near a four-year trough as promising trade numbers out of China failed to cheer a market still worried about faltering global growth.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.8 percent, extending last week's 1.1 percent drop.

Mainland Chinese stocks skidded 1.1 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.7 percent. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index and South Korea's KOSPI both slipped 0.6 percent.

Tokyo's Nikkei was spared the pain for now thanks to a public holiday in Japan.

The declines in Asian markets came after U.S. stocks skidded 1.2 percent on Friday and Wall Street's fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, jumped to a near two-year high.

Investors have been cutting back on risk assets in earnest with Europe staring at the prospects of a recession, Japan's economy floundering, China's expansion slowing and the Federal Reserve on track to end its bond-buying stimulus soon.

Asia's MSCI index has fallen every week in the past five and is now down 10 percent from a near seven-year peak set early last month.

Yet figures on Monday showing Chinese exports rose 15.3 percent from a year earlier, while imports unexpectedly climbed 7 percent did little to restore market confidence.

"I'm still a little bit hesitant in becoming very bullish on export growth, simply looking at the state of the global economy," said Louis Kuijs, chief China economist at RBS in Hong Kong.

IMF member countries on Saturday called for bold action to bolster the global economic recovery and flagged Europe as a top concern.

All this anxiety has helped shore up the safe-haven yen, which rose to an 11-month high against the euro at 135.56 .

It reached a one-month high on the greenback at 107.06 , pulling well away from a six-year trough of 110.09 per dollar reached early this month.

Commodities have also been badly hit by demand worries, none more so than crude oil which has to contend with ample supply as well.

Brent crude has dropped $25 since June and on Friday came within a whisker of $88 a barrel for the first time in nearly four years. It last traded at $89.25.

Copper edged up 0.7 percent to $6,691 per tonne, but was still within reach of a five-month trough of $6,600 set early this month. Spot gold traded at $1,233 an ounce, having last week plumbed a 15-month low of $1,183.46.

Underscoring the gloom surrounding the euro zone, Standard & Poor's on Friday slapped a negative outlook on France's sovereign ratings, topping off a difficult week that featured a string of worryingly weak German data.

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi last week said a slowdown in the euro zone's economic momentum could weigh further on the reluctance of companies and households to invest.

Draghi reiterated that the ECB Governing Council was unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional instruments within its mandate to address risks of a too-long period of low inflation.

Several Federal Reserve officials, most notably, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, said on Saturday efforts to normalise U.S. monetary policy after years of extraordinary stimulus may be hampered by the global outlook.