Asia stock markets down amid Greek bailout impasse

BANGKOK – Asian stocks were mostly lower after European finance ministers delayed a decision to extend emergency help to prevent Greece from defaulting on its debts.

Oil slipped below $92 a barrel while the dollar rose against the euro and the yen.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 per cent to 9,368.16 despite data showing Japan’s exports dropped for the third straight month in May due to massive production losses following the March 11 earthquake.

Toyota Motor Corp., the world’s No. 1 automaker, rose 0.2 per cent after it announced expansion plans aimed at ramping up production and sales in India, top business daily the Nikkei reported on its website.

South Korea’s Kospi sank 0.3 per cent to 2,027.10, although autos helped staunch the fall. Hyundai Motor Co., the country’s biggest car maker, rose 2.2 per cent after data showed the company sold more vehicles in Europe last month than any other Asian brand, Yonhap News Agency reported.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 0.4 per cent to 21,614.04, with oil-related shares dropping. Sinopec, Asia’s biggest oil refiner by volume, and China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as CNOOC, were both down 0.1 per cent.

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HangZhou Night Net

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was 0.5 per cent lower at 4,461.90. Benchmarks in Singapore and Indonesia were higher while those in Taiwan, New Zealand and mainland China were down.

Early Monday, Eurozone finance ministers postponed a decision on a vital installment of rescue loans needed to avoid bankruptcy next month. Greece will get the next euro12 billion of its existing euro110 billion bailout package in early July, but only if it manages to pass euro28 billion in new spending cuts and economic reforms by the end of the month, said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of Luxembourg.

“All eyes remain on Greece,” strategists at Credit Agricole CIB wrote in a research note. “News this morning that the Eurogroup’s final decision on the country’s second bailout package has been delayed until early July will result in more uncertainty filtering through markets.”

Aside from the risk that Greece poses, markets were jittery as the end of the Federal Reserve’s $600 billion bond-buying program draws near. The quantitative easing program, dubbed QE2, was intended to keep interest rates low and encourage economic growth. It ends in late June.

Another factor adding to investor uncertainty, analysts said, was whether China’s attempts to cool its runaway growth to more sustainable levels would result in severe consequences such as significant job losses.

“We are looking at some other concerns – how the end of QE2 will affect the market overall and on the China side, whether it will be a hard or soft landing,” said Lee Kok Joo, head of research at Phillip Securities in Singapore.

On Wall Street last week, the U.S. stock market eked out its first week of gains since April, helped by signs a solution to Greece’s debt problems were near.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed up 0.4 per cent at 12,004.36. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 0.3 per cent to 1,271.50. The technology-focused Nasdaq composite index lost 0.3 per cent to 2,616.48.

Oil prices fell below $92 a barrel as a stronger U.S. dollar made commodities priced in the greenback more expensive to investors spending foreign currencies.

Benchmark oil for July delivery was down $1.36 to $91.65 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.94, or 2 per cent, to settle at $93.01 on Friday.

In currencies, the euro fell to $1.4231 from $1.4315 in late trading Friday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.21 yen from 80.06 yen.

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AP Business Writer Kelvin Chan contributed from Hong Kong.

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