Asian stock markets fell Monday as investors grew increasingly convinced that Greece would default on its debts, an event that economists say has the potential to spark a global downturn.
Oil prices hovered below $80 per barrel while the dollar strengthened against the euro but was lower against the yen.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index hit a six-month low, falling 1.7 percent to 8,416.67 as a stubbornly strong yen weighed on the country’s export sector, making its products more expensive overseas. It was the lowest midday price for the Nikkei since March 15, when it hit 8,227.63 in the aftermath of the earthquake-tsunami disaster.
Consumer electronics giants Panasonic Corp. fell 3.4 percent and Sharp Corp. lost 4.4 percent. Isuzu Motors Ltd. tumbled 5.3 percent.
South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.7 percent to 1,667.76 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 1.8 percent to 17,352. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.5 percent to 3,882.20.
Investors have been waiting in vain for news that Greece will receive the next installment of a bailout package in time to avoid defaulting on its debt next month.
If it defaults, banks throughout Europe are likely to lose the money they invested in Greek bonds — an event that could ultimately lead to a recession in Europe and worsen economic problems in the U.S.
“People expected over the weekend that European finance ministers and IMF officials would probably announce some concrete plans to stabilize the eurozone. But it came out empty again,” said Jackson Wong, vice president at Tanrich Securities in Hong Kong.