BANGKOK - Asian stock markets continued to ebb Wednesday amid fears Europe's debt crisis is about to get much worse and deal a new blow to the global economy.
Global markets have been roiled by a sudden surge in Spain's borrowing costs above 7 per cent, a level that is likely unaffordable if sustained and could force Europe's fourth-biggest economy to seek a monumentally expensive financial rescue.
Greece is also back in focus because of the possibility it will miss government deficit reduction targets that are a condition of the European and IMF bailout that kept the country from defaulting on its debt mountain and leaving the euro common currency.
Investors continue to hope the U.S. Federal Reserve will take new steps to boost economic growth, which was helping to temper falls in markets after a sharp global sell-off on Monday.
"Speculation that the Fed is close to announcing further stimulus seems to be helping to limit the downside," said IG Markets strategist Stan Shamu in an emailed commentary. "Several officials have expressed both frustration with the disappointing recovery and a willingness to act if growth and employment don't pick up."
Europe's prolonged crisis is dragging on global economic growth at the same time as China's economy slows from a breakneck pace and the U.S. recovery stumbles. But so far the downturn is not as severe as the economic crunch that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
"While the downside risks to the global outlook have increased, once again, in the past couple of months, it would require a significant worsening of the eurozone crisis or a much harder landing in China, most likely the two together, to push the global economy back into recession," IHS chief economist Nariman Behravesh said in a report.
Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average was down 1.7 per cent at 8,347.34 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 0.7 per cent to 18,776.61. South Korea's Kospi shed 1.3 per cent to 1,770.14 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.2 per cent to 4,125.70. The Shanghai Composite slipped 0.3 per cent to 2,141.14.
Asian technology shares were mixed after Apple Inc. surprised investors with a rare earnings disappointment after the closing bell on Wall Street.
Apple reported the smallest increases in revenue and income in years, badly missing analysts' expectations. Its sales were strong in terms of the numbers of iPads and iPhones sold but consumers were opting to buy the least expensive versions, slowing the company's revenue growth.
Samsung Electronics Co., which competes with Apple in smartphones and tablets, fell 0.9 per cent while Japan's Sony Corp. was down 5.1 per cent. Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp. added 0.5 per cent.
In the U.S., the Dow Jones industrial average fell 104.14 points, or 0.8 per cent, to end at 12,617.32 on Tuesday. It was the third triple-digit point loss in a row for the blue chip index.
In energy trading, benchmark crude for September delivery was down 41 cents at $88.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 36 cents to end Tuesday in New York at $88.50.
Among currencies, the dollar rose less than 0.1 per cent to 78.15 yen. The euro was steady at $1.207.