World Stock Markets Decline Amid Greece Fears

Published February 16, 2012 9:09AM (EST)

BEIJING (AP) — World stocks fell Thursday amid growing fears the latest deal to resolve Greece's debt crisis is faltering.

Oil hovered below $102 a barrel in Asia amid conflicting reports about whether Iran is cutting crude exports to Europe.

Tokyo's benchmark Nikkei 225 index shed 0.2 percent to 9,238.10 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was off 0.4 percent at 21,277.2. Seoul's Kospi fell 1.4 percent to 1,997.45. New Zealand's benchmark shed 0.1 percent.

In Europe, France's CAC-40 declined 0.7 percent to 3,367.01 and Germany's DAX was off 1.2 percent at 6,677.33.

U.S. markets looked headed for declines after Dow Jones industrial average futures shed 0.3 percent and futures for the Standard & Poor's 500 futures were off 0.5 percent.

Global markets rose briefly Wednesday on news China would keep investing in Europe and Greece would fulfill obligations imposed by its creditors. But those hopes waned after a European official warned Greece's assurances might be inadequate, possibly jeopardizing the latest infusion of money from its European partners.

Asian investors were put off by the lack of a clear outcome over Greece.

"The uncertainty upset the market, especially last night in New York," said Francis Lun, managing director of Lyncean Securities in Hong Kong. "I think people are resigned to the fact that Greece really is a lost cause. It doesn't make sense to throw good money after bad."

China's Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,356.86. Taipei's Taiex ended down 1.7 percent at 7,869.70 and Sydney's S&P ASX 200 shed 1.7 percent to 4,181.90. Singapore's benchmark declined 0.8 percent to 2,987.00.

Asian traders have been disappointed by Beijing's failure to take more aggressive steps to boost slowing growth by easing credit and investment curbs imposed earlier to fight inflation and surging housing costs, Lun said.

"Of course the play is now for the Chinese government to increase liquidity and relax controls on the property market. But that hasn't happened," Lun said.

China's central bank governor on Wednesday expressed confidence in Europe, his country's biggest trading partner, and said Beijing will keep buying European government debt.

Chinese leaders have repeatedly expressed sympathy and support for Europe but have made no financial commitments. European leaders are hoping Beijing will contribute to a bailout fund from its $3.2 trillion in foreign reserves.

Greece's creditors want Athens to make up a euro325 million ($425 million) funding gap and present written guarantees the governing coalition's party leaders will carry out the plan if they come to power. European governments worry that after elections expected in April, Greek politicians might renege on austerity measures due to public opposition.

Some analysts have called for an "orderly default," letting Greece eliminate most or all of its debts, others have warned repercussions could be severe, damaging confidence in other European governments.

On currency markets, the dollar fell to 78.716 yen while the euro declined to $1.299.

Benchmark crude was down 29 cents at $101.51 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.06 to settle at $101.80 per barrel in New York on Wednesday.

Brent crude was down 36 cents to $118.57 per barrel in London.

By Salon Staff

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