Asian stocks sink amid Greece worry
Asian stock markets sank today after Greece closed its banks and imposed capital controls in a dramatic turn in its struggle with heavy debts.
Oil prices declined and the euro edged down against the dollar after Athens announced the moves to stem the flow of money out of Greek banks and put pressure on creditors to offer concessions before a bailout programme expires tomorrow.
The Shanghai Composite Index fell 3.7% to 4,035.48 points despite China's surprise weekend interest rate cut. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 index shed 2.4% to 20,218.17 points.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 2.7% to 25,949.30 and Sydney's S&P ASX-200 was off 2.3% at 5,418.80. Seoul's Kospi dropped 1.4% to 2,061.00 and India's Sensex declined 1.6% to 27,370.30. The euro slipped to 1.101 US dollars from the previous session's 1.116 US dollars. The dollar declined to 123.15 yen from 123.89 yen.
Greece's Cabinet closed banks for six business days and restricted cash withdrawals. The Athens Stock Exchange was due to be closed today. That follows prime minister Alexis Tsipras' weekend decision to call a referendum on European and International Monetary Fund proposals for Greek reforms in return for bailout funds.
The accelerating crisis has raised questions about whether Greece might withdraw from the 19-nation euro currency, a move dubbed Grexit.
"Even if a deal is somehow reached, the ability of Greece to implement agreed reforms is doubtful," said IHS Global Insight economist Rajiv Biswas in a report.
Greek withdrawal from the euro could lower Asian economic growth by 0.3% next year due to disruption in trade and financial markets, Mr Biswas said.
Globally, Greece's brinksmanship with its creditors is unlikely to have as severe an impact as the financial panic set off by the collapse of Lehman Bros in September 2008, economists said.
"Today, the European banks have shed much of their Greek debt and they have significantly increased their capital," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics.
"A Greek default and exit from the euro zone would be devastating to Greece's economy, but no one else's," said Mr Zandi. "So, the Greek standoff will be disconcerting to financial markets, but only temporarily."
The European Central Bank has vowed to do whatever it takes to prevent a financial panic.
The ECB is a committed to buying 60 billion euro a month in bonds to push down interest rates and help euro zone economies. It could buy more and flood financial markets with cash to calm jittery investors.
"They stand ready to do whatever it takes," said Jacob Kirkegaard, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
China's rate cut, the fourth since November, appeared to be aimed at reassuring investors after a plunge in share prices last week, rather than boosting economic growth, analysts said.
Beijing cut its benchmark lending rate by 0.25 percentage point and freed up money for lending by lowering the reserves banks are required to hold.
The timing is "rather market-friendly" and appears to be meant to "provide a support to the market sentiment," said Credit Suisse economists Dong Tao and Weishen Deng in a report.
In energy markets, U.S. benchmark crude declined 89 cents per barrel to 58.24 US dollars in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract shed seven cents in the previous session to close at 59.63 US dollars. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 78 cents to 62.48 US dollars in London.