BANGKOK – Renewed concerns about Europe's debt, falling oil prices and U.S. technology company troubles steered Asian stocks lower Tuesday.
Oil prices fell to below $97 a barrel in Asia, extending a two-week sell-off amid investor concern that slowing U.S. economic growth could undermine crude demand. The dollar strengthened against the euro and the yen.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 0.7 percent lower to 22,794.46, with oil companies incurring losses on falling crude prices. PetroChina Co. Ltd. lost 0.6 percent, and China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, slumped 0.9 percent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.4 percent to 9,516.03. Among the losers were utilities that may have to pitch in to help Tokyo Electric Power Co. cope with financial losses following a tsunami on March 11 that smashed into one of the company's nuclear plants in northeastern Japan, all but destroying the facility.
TEPCO has been struggling for two months to bring a radiation leak from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant under control. Overall damages are expected to be in the tens of billions of dollars (trillions of yen). Kansai Electric Power Co. lost 4.2 percent, while TEPCO, the company at the center of so many troubles, plummeted 15.5 percent. Chubu Electric Power Co. Inc., which carried out a government request to shut down a nuclear plant considered vulnerable to tsunamis, dropped 6.6 percent.
South Korea's Kospi index was down 0.4 percent to 2,095.22, with high-tech shares following their U.S. counterparts down. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. dropped 3.3 percent, and rival LG Electronics was 2.2 percent lower. In the U.S., technology companies sustained the largest losses in Monday trading. Yahoo! Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. fell by more than 4 percent.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 eked out a gain of 0.1 percent to 4,655.10. Markets in Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia were closed for a holiday.
In New York on Monday, technology company troubles and renewed concerns about Europe's debt dragged stocks lower, the day that European finance ministers approved $110 billion in rescue loans to Portugal. They have yet to decide on a second rescue package for Greece.
The arrest of the head of the International Monetary Fund is expected to make solving Greece's problems more difficult. The official, Dominique Strauss-Kahn of France, had been heavily involved in trying to fix the debt crises in Portugal and Greece. He is being held without bail on charges of sexually assaulting a hotel employee in New York City.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.4 percent to close at 12,548.37. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.6 percent to 1,329.47. The Nasdaq fell 1.6 percent to 2,782.31.
Benchmark crude for June delivery was down 47 cents to $96.90 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $2.28 to settle at $97.37 on Monday
In currencies, the euro weakened to $1.4131 from $1.4192 Monday afternoon in New York. The dollar was up at 81.19 yen from 80.84 yen.