Asian markets sank on Friday, as investors continued their week-long run for cover and offloaded their riskier assets.
The Nikkei Stock Average dropped 4.84% to sit at 14,952.61, bringing its weekly losses for the shorter trading week above 11%. Trading in Japan was closed on Thursday for a national holiday.
Investors were still turning to safe havens in Japan, in particular gold, government bonds, and the ever-popular yen. The currency had enjoyed a surge in recent days as its popularity increased, which is bad news for large firms in the island nation as the price of exports has jumped.
Many analysts noted it was also undermining efforts by the Bank of Japan to stimulate the economy, with the boost provided by its controversial easing policy announced last October now all but wiped out.
The yen had slipped slightly after Asian trading, by 0.13% to JPY 112.57 against the USD. A drop triggered by the central bank's negative interest rate announcement a fortnight ago was now lost as well.
Cheap oil was also continuing to concern investors, after US crude plunged below $27 a barrel on Thursday. It recovered ahead of Asian trading, however, after Dow Jones reported the United Arab Emirates was considering output cuts.
Brent crude was last up 3.93% at $31.29 a barrel, and West Texas Intermediate was up 3.57% to $27.18 a barrel.
Elsewhere in the region, the South Korean technology sector suffered a shock as trading was temporarily halted on the Kosdaq - an index focused on small-cap tech firms - after it dropped 8%. It clawed back after the suspension, closing down 6.1%.
Seoul's main board, the Kospi, closed down 1.41% at 1,835.28. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng slipped 1.2% after catching up on the week's losses on Thursday.
Down under, Sydney finished the week on a dismal note, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 1.16% to 4,765.30. The index slipped into bear territory this week, as concerns about the global banking sector sparked selloffs in the continent's own big banks.
Over the week, Commonwealth Bank of Australia lost 4.3%, Westpac Banking Corporation was down 7.6%, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 8% and National Australia Bank plunged 8.8%.
The low oil price
environment was also having an effect on the energy-heavy market, with Australia's biggest producer Woodside Petroleum down 2.4% during the week.
Across the Tasman, the S&P/NZX 50 fell 0.9% to 5,933.97. Air New Zealand led the charge, with the flag carrier reaching a three-month low after its stock was downgraded from outperform to neutral by local broker Forsyth Barr.
The company - which also holds a large chunk of Virgin Australia Airlines - was due to post annual earnings on February 25.
"There's obviously a series of worries out there, perhaps the biggest of which is that - aside from China - central banks are pushing around the end of a piece of string and then enter negative interest rates," Salt Funds Management managing director Matthew Goodson told New Zealand's National Business Review on the state of the region.
"What we're seeing in this current sell off is a loss of faith in risk markets and central banks, and their ability to keep bailing markets out. You've driven risk-free rates even lower, but the risk premium investors demand has gone up," he added.
The Aussie dollar
clawed back 0.03% on the greenback after trading, last sitting at AUD 1.4062 per USD. The Kiwi lost 0.69% to NZD 1.4992.
Chinese traders were still enjoying their week off for the Lunar New Year holiday, but were due back to the trading floor first thing Monday.