- Markets across Asia fell on Friday after a Malaysia Airlines plane was reportedly shot down in Ukraine, sending investors piling into the safety of the yen and sending Japanese stocks tumbling with the Nikkei 2255 down more than 1%.

President Barack Obama said the U.S. would assist in determining the cause of the crash of a Malaysia Airlines plane near the Russia-Ukraine border.

Shares in Malaysian Airline Systems Bhd. plunged as much as 16% as the airline lost its second plane this year. The carrier is already at the center of a global mystery over the disappearance in March of one of its flights.

This time, the passenger plane was carrying 283 passengers and crashed in the battle-torn area of Donetsk, with U.S. intelligence agencies saying that it was hit by a ground-to-air missile.

Australia''s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2% and South Korea''s KOSPI was 0.4% lower.

In China, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index lost 0.8% and the Shanghai Composite fell 0.2%.

Overnight, the Dow 30 fell 0.94%, the S&P 500 index fell 1.18%, while the NASDAQ Composite index fell 1.41% on the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 crash.

Elsewhere, Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza later in the session.

"Following ten days of Hamas attacks by land, air and sea, and after repeated rejections of offers to deescalate the situation, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has initiated a ground operation within the Gaza Strip," the IDF said on its Website.

Geopolitical concerns completely overshadowed data released earlier.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia said that its manufacturing index improved to a more than three-year high of 23.9 this month from June’s reading of 17.8. Analysts had expected the index to dip to 16.0 in July.

The data came after the U.S. Department of Labor said the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits in the week ending July 12 declined by 3,000 to 302,000 from the previous week’s total of 305,000.

Analysts had expected jobless claims to rise by 5,000 to 310,000 last week.

Separately, the U.S. Commerce Department said that the number of building permits issued last month fell by 4.2% to 963,000 units from May’s total of 991,000. Analysts expected building permits to rise by 4.2% to 1.04 million units in June.

Markets on Friday will continue to track events surrounding the downed Malaysian Airlines plane and Israel''s ground offensive in Gaza.

Elsewhere, the U.S. is release preliminary data from the University of Michigan on consumer sentiment.

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