Japanese stocks plunged today and other Asian markets declined following heavy Wall Street losses triggered by US President Donald Trump's criticism of the US central bank.

The Nikkei 225 fell by an unusually wide margin of 5 per cent to 19,155.14. The Shanghai Composite Index ended off 0.9 per cent at 2,504.82 after being down as much as 2.3 per cent at midday. Benchmarks in Thailand and Taiwan also declined.

Markets in Europe, Hong Kong, Australia and South Korea were closed for Christmas.

Wall Street indexes fell more than 2 per cent yesterday after Trump said on Twitter the Federal Reserve was the US economy's "only problem." Efforts by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to calm investor fears only seemed to make matters worse.

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US stocks are track for their worst December since 1931 during the Great Depression.

Shanghai is down almost 25 per cent this year. Tokyo, Hong Kong and other markets are on track to end 2018 down more than 10 per cent.

Markets have been roiled by concerns about a slowing global economy, the US-Chinese tariff battle and another interest rate increase by the Fed.

Trump's tweet yesterday heightened fears about the economy being destabilised by a president who wants control over the Fed. Its board members are nominated by the president but make decisions independently of the White House. The board's chairman, Jerome Powell, was nominated by Trump last year.

"The only problem our economy has is the Fed," the president said on Twitter. "They don't have a feel for the Market, they don't understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can't score because he has no touch — he can't putt!"

The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 2.7 per cent. The benchmark index is down 19.8 per cent from its peak on September 20, close to the 20 per cent drop that would officially mean the end of the longest bull market for stocks in modern history — a run of nearly 10 years.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank 2.9 per cent while the Nasdaq skidded 2.2 per cent.

On Sunday, Mnuchin made a round of calls to the heads of the six largest US banks, but the move only raised new concerns about the economy.

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Most economists expect US economic growth to slow in 2019, not slide into a full-blown recession. But the president has voiced his anger over the Fed's decision to raise its key short-term rate four times in 2018. That is intended to prevent the economy from overheating.

Technology stocks, health care companies and banks took some of the heaviest losses in Monday's sell-off. Wells Fargo slid 3.4 per cent, Microsoft 4.2 per cent and Johnson & Johnson 4.1 per cent.

US markets reopen tomorrow.

In energy markets, Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 9 cents to $50.68 per barrel in London. The contract plummeted $3.33 on Monday to close at $50.77.

In currency trading, the dollar declined to 110.28 yen from Monday's 110.45 yen. The euro was little-changed at $1.1407.

- AP