Asian shares sink to six-month lows, US dollar drops on global woes

TOKYO (Reuters) - A sharp slide in Japanese stocks led Asian equities down on Thursday, as a maelstrom of concern about global growth drove U.S. Treasury yields lower and weighed on the US dollar.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan sank 1.1 per cent in early trade while Japan's Nikkei stock average tumbled 2.1 per cent.

Data released on Wednesday showed U.S. retail sales and producer prices both dropped last month, a worrisome economic signal that helped fuel a sell-off on Wall Street as it quashed expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve would hike U.S. interest rates sooner rather than later.

The New York Fed's Empire State general business conditions index also plunged to 6.17 in October from September's 27.54, marking the weakest pace of manufacturing activity in New York state since April.

The downbeat U.S. data came after a recent spate of weak figures from China and Europe raised fears about the health of the global economy.

The S&P 500 fell as much as 3 per cent on Wednesday, briefly turning negative for the year, while European equities shed 3.2 per cent to mark their biggest one-day slide in almost four years.

The US dollar's index against a basket of six major currencies stood at 84.903 in early Asian trade, wallowing at levels last plumbed in September and moving away from a four-year high of 86.746 touched early this month.

Against the yen, the dollar sank to 105.99 yen, moving back toward a more than one-month low around 105.20 touched on Wednesday, while the euro was slightly down on the day at $1.2821 after touching a nearly one-month high of $1.2835.