Asian stocks fall on Brexit uncertainty

Man looking at share board Image copyright AFP

Asian stock markets fell as investors retreated to safer assets ahead of the UK's referendum on European Union membership.

Japan's economy minister said he was "closely watching" the referendum because a "leave" vote would affect operations at Japanese companies.

Singapore's trade minister said a UK vote to leave the EU would not be good for the global economic recovery.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.4% to end the session at 16,601.36.

The broader Topix index dropped 0.5% to 1,330.72.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index closed 0.9% lower at 5,312.60 while New Zealand's stock market ended flat.

South Korea's Kospi fell 0.3% to shut at 2,017.63.

Hong Kong's stock market resumed trading on Friday after being shut yesterday for the Dragon Boat holiday, and closed down 1.2% at 21,1042.64. Markets in mainland China and Taiwan remain closed for a second day.

The UK votes on 23 June on whether to remain in or leave the European Union.

"Whether there is a significant and lasting impact on global markets will largely depend on the degree of contagion from events in the UK to the rest of Europe," said economist Julian Jessop from Capital Economics.