Asian stock markets fell Thursday after the Federal Reserve made it known that its top officials were leaning toward phasing out its massive stimulus program, AP reported.
The Fed released minutes of its July policy meeting Wednesday that showed most members want to slow down the pace of a massive bond-buying program. The U.S. central bank has been purchasing $85 billion of financial assets a month, which was intended to push down interest rates and spur borrowing and growth.
However, U.S. economic data in recent months has been strong enough to stir some Fed officials to call for a winding down of the asset purchases. That has sparked a sell-off in stock markets, which had been pumped up by the low interest rate policy, with some weaker Asian economies such as India and Indonesia particularly hard hit. India's rupee continued to post fresh record lows, with the dollar buying more than 65 rupees Thursday.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.2 percent to 13,403.59. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 0.7 percent to 21,667.34. South Korea's Kospi lost 1 percent to 1,849.82. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.6 percent to 5,071.90.
The benchmark index in the Philippines sank 6.1 percent, catching up with earlier losses in regional markets after being closed due to flooding that submerged large parts of the capital Manila.
Stocks in mainland China rose after a private manufacturing survey showed an unexpected growth spurt in factory output there. HSBC Corp. said the preliminary version of its monthly purchasing managers' index for August rose to 50.1 from July's 47.7. Numbers above 50 indicate an expansion in activity.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3343 from $1.3342 late Wednesday. The dollar rose to 98.20 yen from 97.76 yen.