Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Tuesday, March 6, 2012. Stocks in the U.S. are down more than 1 percent at the opening bell, following similar declines in Europe. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stock markets fell Wednesday as jittery investors awaited a deadline for debt-mired Greece to get sufficient support for a bond swap deal from its private creditors or face default.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.7 percent to 9,572.91. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 1.1 percent to 20,582.32 and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.9 percent to 1,981.84. [auth] Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.8 percent to 4,171.
The losses in Asia come a day after Wall Street endured its worst drop this year.
U.S. stocks had their first big stumble of 2012 on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping more than 203 points.
A report showing that the combined economies of euro countries shrank at the end of 2011 and talk of war from Israel over Iran’s nuclear program weighed on investors’ nerves. But the biggest concern was a deadline Thursday for Greece’s private bondholders to accept a deal to swap their Greek government bonds for replacements with a lower face value and interest rate.
The swap is vital for Greece to cut its debt and get a bailout of €130 billion ($172 billion) from other countries and the International Monetary Fund. Without the bailout, Greece could default on its debt later this month and rattle markets around the world.
“Rumours that a slack participation rate by private investors in the Greek bond swap might force Athens to extend the deadline beyond Thursday are likely to keep investors at bay. The last thing markets want to see is uncertainty,” Stan Shamu, market analyst at IG Markets in Melbourne, said in an email.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.6 percent to close at 12,759.15. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 1.5 percent to 1,343.36. The Nasdaq composite fell 1.4 percent to 2,910.32.
Benchmark oil for April delivery was up 34 cents to $105.04 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell by $2.02 Tuesday to $104.70 per barrel in New York.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3142 from $1.3110 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar rose to 80.81 yen from 80.78 yen.