Most Asian stocks fall on renewed worries over European bank debt

TOKYO (AP) — Most Asian stock markets slumped in early trading Wednesday, pressured by renewed concerns over the health of European banks following a report that the region's banks may have more risky government debt.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock index dropped 181.61 points, or 2.0 percent, to 9,044.39 in the morning session. Investors dumped Japanese exporters as the yen hit a fresh 15-year high against the dollar Tuesday.

A strong yen hurts Japanese exporters like Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp. as it cuts their overseas profits. The yen stood at 83.68 to the dollar in Tokyo Wednesday morning from 83.80 yen in New York late Tuesday. Earlier Tuesday, the yen hit a 15-year high of 83.52 to the dollar.

South Korea's Kospi shed 0.7 percent to 1,776.06. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6 percent at 4,586.60.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.9 percent to 21,213.20. The Shanghai Composite Index also declined 0.5 percent to 2,684.13. Shares in New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore all retreated, while those in Indonesia and Taiwan edged up.

Sentiment was sluggish across Asia after a report in the Wall Street Journal claimed that the EU stress tests of 91 banks in July understated some lenders' holdings of potentially risky debt.

The report sparked worries that Europe's debt crisis could flare up again. Such worries also pressured Wall Street Tuesday as the Dow Jones industrial average dropped 107.24 points, or 1.0 percent, to close at 10,340.69.

In currencies, the euro rose to $1.2693 from $1.2684 in New York late Tuesday.

Benchmark crude for October delivery fell 51 cents to settle at $74.09 a barrel Tuesday on the New York Mercantile Exchange.