Asia stocks down on Greek bailout impasse

2011-06-20 09:32

Bangkok - Asian stocks were mostly lower after European finance ministers delayed a decision to extend emergency help to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts.

Oil slipped below $92 a barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.

Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.2% to 9 368.16 despite data showing Japan's exports dropped for the third straight month in May due to massive production losses following the March 11 earthquake.

Toyota, the world's No. 1 automaker, rose 0.2% after it announced expansion plans aimed at ramping up production and sales in India, top business daily the Nikkei reported on its website.

South Korea's Kospi sank 0.3% to 2 027.10, although autos helped staunch the fall. Hyundai, the country's biggest car maker, rose 2.2% after data showed the company sold more vehicles in Europe last month than any other Asian brand, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4% to 21 614.04, with oil-related shares dropping. Sinopec, Asia's biggest oil refiner by volume, and China National Offshore Oil Corp, known as CNOOC, were both down 0.1%.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5% lower at 4 461.90. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia were higher while those in Taiwan, New Zealand and mainland China were down.

Early Monday, Eurozone finance ministers postponed a decision on a vital installment of rescue loans needed to avoid bankruptcy next month. Greece will get the next €12bn of its existing €110bn bailout package in early July, but only if it manages to pass €28bn in new spending cuts and economic reforms by the end of the month, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg.

"All eyes remain on Greece," strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note. "News this morning that the Eurogroup's final decision on the country's second bailout package has been delayed until early July will result in more uncertainty filtering through markets."

Aside from the risk that Greece poses, markets were jittery as the end of the Federal Reserve's $600bn bond-buying program draws near. The quantitative easing program, dubbed QE2, was intended to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth. It ends in late June.

Another factor adding to investor uncertainty, analysts said, was whether China's attempts to cool its runaway growth to more sustainable levels would result in severe consequences such as significant job losses.

"We are looking at some other concerns - how the end of QE2 will affect the market overall and on the China side, whether it will be a hard or soft landing," said Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore.

On Wall Street last week, the US stock market eked out its first week of gains since April, helped by signs a solution to Greece's debt problems were near.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.4% at 12 004.36. The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.3% to 1 271.50. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 0.3% to 2 616.48.

Oil prices fell below $92 a barrel as a stronger US dollar made commodities priced in the greenback more expensive to investors spending foreign currencies.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down $1.36 to $91.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.94, to settle at $93.01 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.4231 from $1.4315 in late trading Friday in New York. The dollar rose to ¥80.21 from ¥80.06.