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Markets tumble, Tokyo down 2 pct

Written by: Staff
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HONG KONG, May 12 (Reuters) Asian stock markets tumbled on Friday, with Tokyo sliding more than 2 percent, as sentiment soured after U.S. shares suffered their biggest fall in nearly four months.

Further gains in oil, copper and gold had fuelled worries about inflation, consumer spending and more U.S. rate hikes, sending U.S.

investors scurrying for the exit.

U.S. crude slipped back below a barrel in early Asian dealings after rising towards on Thursday.

At 0025 GMT, Tokyo's Nikkei average had lost 2.05 percent as chip equipment maker Advantest Corp. dropped 4.1 percent, top casual wear chain Fast Retailing slid 3.6 percent and industrial robot maker Fanuc lost 3.5 percent.

''Things look gloomier here after a sell-off in U.S. stocks and a rise in the price of oil and other commodities,'' said Shinji Igarashi, equity manager at Chuo Securities.

But Canon Inc. bucked the weaker trend, rising 0.5 percent a day after the top-ranked maker of PC printers said it planned a 1.5-for-1 share split on July 1 and lifted its dividend forecast for calendar 2006 to 110 yen per share from 100 yen.

In South Korea, the key KOSPI shed 1.1 percent, following a near 1 percent rise on Thursday to a record high, with weakness in market heavyweight Samsung Electronics, top lender Kookmin Bank and steel maker POSCO weighing on the overall market.

''It's time for a correction,'' said Choo Hee-yeop, deputy general manager of asset management strategy at Korea Investment and Securities.

Also off a record high, Australian shares dropped 0.58 percent as recent market darlings such as global miner BHP Billiton fell 1.3 percent. All the major banks, including National Australia Bank, sagged as well.

On Wall Street, the blue chip Dow slid 1.22 percent while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index lost 2.07 percent as higher crude oil and gold prices stoked worries about inflation.

REUTERS PDS PM0719

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