ASIAN markets were left largely in a sea of red yesterday as investors turned jittery in anticipation of the release of Chinese growth data today.
Sentiment was also dampened by an unexpected interest rate cut in South Korea and downbeat Australian employment data.
The regional red ink was most pronounced in South Korea, where the Kospi tumbled 2.24 per cent to its lowest level since early last month.
The fall came after the central bank there trimmed its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 3 per cent.
The negative sentiment was also felt in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng Index sank 2.03 per cent.
Investors there were fearful China's second-quarter economic growth numbers today will show their worst reading since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Their doubts were further compounded by the release of downbeat Chinese trade data earlier in the week, which raised more worries of a slowdown.
Analysts said this set the scene for the general gloom and doom in the region, which also saw Japan shares dropping 1.48 per cent and Taiwan stocks sinking 1.75 per cent.
The bearish mood set in overnight when the US Federal Reserve released its minutes, which showed no signs that further economic stimulus was in the works.
Back home, the Straits Times Index (STI) snapped a two-day winning streak, falling 17.27 points, or 0.58 per cent, to 2,972.04.
Market experts said the benchmark indicator failed to clear the key 3,000 mark mainly due to jitters felt from other major Asian bourses. A broker said: 'The fear in Hong Kong spread over here, resulting in an overall sluggish mood in Singapore.'
Just four of the 30 STI component stocks finished higher, with the rest ending lower.
All three banking counters dipped, with DBS Group Holdings eight cents down to $14.12, United Overseas Bank five cents lower at $19.44 and OCBC Bank three cents behind at $8.99.
Property shares were also in the red. CapitaLand dropped a cent to $2.92 and City Developments fell 24 cents to $11.14.
The Singapore Exchange (SGX) was in the spotlight after announcing a cross-trading agreement with the London Stock Exchange on Wednesday.
SGX stock ended five cents down to $6.50 as analysts expect a limited positive short-term impact from the move.
In contrast, blue chips Keppel Corp gained two cents to $10.78 and SIA Engineering added three cents to $4.20.