Asian shares extend losses amid Libya worries

Asian shares extended losses Wednesday amid ongoing worries about unrest in Libya, which pushed oil prices higher and sent Wall Street sharply lower.

The downturn was limited after big declines the previous day. But sentiment in the region remained fragile after a defiant Moammar Gadhafi vowed in a televised speech Tuesday to fight to his "last drop of blood" and roared at supporters to strike back against Libyan protesters to defend his embattled regime.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.4 percent to 22,893.51, the Shanghai Composite index fell 0.4 percent to 2,844.99, and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.2 percent at 4,846.10,

Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average shed 0.2 percent to 10,643.80. A stronger yen hurt exporters, with Nissan Motor Co. losing 1.6 percent.

Benchmarks in Taiwan and Singapore also retreated, while South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 1,972.92.

New Zealand's main stock index rose 0.1 percent to 3,362.99 a day after a powerful earthquake devastated the city of Christchurch. Prime Minister John Key declared a state of national emergency and said at a news conference that 75 people were confirmed to have been killed, with 55 of them identified.

In New York Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average sank 178.46 points, or 1.4 percent, to close at 12,212.79. Bond prices rose as investors sought safety.

Oil prices soared to the highest level in more than two years. The fight between protesters and forces loyal to Gadhafi threatens oil production from the world's 15th largest oil exporter, accounting for 2 percent of global daily output. Libya also sits atop the largest oil reserves in Africa.

The broader Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 27.57, or 2 percent, to 1,315.44. The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 77.53, or 2.7 percent, to 2,756.42.

In currencies, the dollar fell to 82.60 yen from 82.71 yen late Tuesday. The euro stood at $1.3696 from $1.3662.

Benchmark crude for April delivery rose 31 cents to $95.73 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract jumped 6.4 percent to settle at $95.42 on Tuesday.