Asian markets subdued amid Greek debt woes
BANGKOK – Worries over Greece's debt problems contributed to muted trading on Asian markets Tuesday despite a rise on Wall Street spurred by rising commodity prices.
Oil prices rose above $101 per barrel, while a strengthening yen encroached on Japanese export stocks. The dollar also weakened against the euro.
Japan's Nikkei 225 slumped 0.2 percent to 9,771.11, with major exporters down, including Toyota Motor Corp., by 0.6 percent; and Panasonic Corp., by 1.3 percent.
Shares of Chubu Electric Power Co. rose 2.2 percent after the Japanese utility agreed to shutter three nuclear reactors at a coastal power plant while it builds a seawall and improves other tsunami defenses.
Chubu acted after Prime Minister Naoto Kan requested the temporary shutdown at its Hamaoka plant. The facility sits above a major fault line and has long been considered Japan's riskiest nuclear power plant.
Rising oil prices helped energy shares but hurt airlines stocks. Inpex Corp., Japan's largest energy explorer, gained 0.4 percent, but All Nippon Airways slipped 0.8 percent. Taiwan's EVA Airways Corp. dipped 0.2 percent.
Australia's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.2 percent to 4,746.10, with shares of Australia's four biggest bank following a decline among financial stocks in New York. Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 0.4 percent, Westpac Banking Corp. was 0.7 percent down, National Australia Bank Ltd. lost 0.7 percent, and Australian & New Zealand Banking Group dipped 0.8 percent.
Elsewhere, benchmarks in Singapore and mainland China rose. Markets in South Korea and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.
In New York on Monday, commodity prices recovered some of last week's losses, helping to lift stocks.
The S&P 500 added 0.5 percent to close at 1,346.29. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.4 percent to 12,684.68. The Nasdaq composite index rose 0.6 percent to 2,843.25.
Metals and other commodities suffered steep losses last week, when silver tumbled 27 percent and oil sank 15 percent because of fears of weaker global demand and higher margin requirements that were meant to lower the influence of speculators whose strategy of buying on margin is considered to be a reason why commodities have risen so steeply over the last year.
European stock markets fell Monday on worries that Greece will need more time or assistance from other EU countries to make payments on its debt, or worse, the country could partially default on the debt that it owes to bond investors. Standard & Poor's downgraded Greece's debt rating even further into junk status.
Benchmark crude for June delivery was down $1.53 to $101.02 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract settled at $102.55 on the Nymex on Monday.
The dollar fell to 80.33 yen from 80.39 Japanese yen in New York on Monday. The euro strengthened to $1.4339 from $1.4336.