South Korea’s ugly sell-off capped an awful week for Asian stocks

Let’s just clean up and get out of here.
Let’s just clean up and get out of here.
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-Ji
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It’s been a bad week for the stock market in Asia. Japanese stocks have had their worst week since the global financial crisis, and Hong Kong shares recorded their worst start to the Chinese New Year in more than 20 years.

But today (Feb. 12), the pain was felt most acutely in South Korea. Trading on the Kosdaq, the smaller cap, tech-focused exchange, was halted after its main index dropped by more than 8%, and ended the day down 6.1%. South Korea’s broader Kospi index finished down 1.4%.

Here’s what trading looked like throughout the day:

The carnage stems from a wave of pessimism washing through global markets this week, as investors worry about the effects of negative interest rates, plunging oil prices, sputtering global trade, a slowing Chinese economy, and much else besides.

Korean investors got some respite when the market’s “circuit breakers”—which pause trading for 20 minutes if it a market falls more than 8% during the day—worked a lot better than China’s did last month. When trading resumed, the Kosdaq managed to reclaim some of the day’s losses, and everyone was surely relieved when the weekend finally arrived.