BANGKOK – Asian shares were mostly lower Thursday as investors again began to doubt Europe’s ability to cauterize its worsening debt crisis.
Benchmark oil fell below $81 a barrel while the dollar dropped against the euro and the yen.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index shed 1 percent to 8,531.02 and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.4 percent to 3,981.60. Trading in Hong Kong was suspended due to an approaching typhoon.
Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.4 percent to 2,382.06 and the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index dropped 1.2 percent to 1,019.79.
But South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.8 percent to 1,736.08. Benchmarks in Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines were also higher.
Investment sentiment was hindered by remarks from German Chancellor Angela Merkel late Wednesday suggesting that the second bailout package for Greece might have to be renegotiated. Several European leaders want banks to take bigger losses on Greek bonds. France and the European Central Bank oppose the idea.
Germany’s parliament was set to vote Thursday on a measure that would give a European rescue fund more powers to fight the region’s debt crisis. Finland’s parliament approved the proposal Wednesday, briefly lifting some uncertainty over the debt crisis issue, which has been dogging financial markets since late July.
Raw materials companies were among the biggest decliners in Asia after prices for commodities like copper and oil fell sharply. Investors fear that Europe’s problems could cause the global economy to slip into another recession, weakening demand for basic materials.
Japan Cosmo Oil Co. fell 1 percent and energy explorer Inpex dropped 1.6 percent. In Australia, mining giants BHP Billiton fell 2.7 percent while Rio Tinto lost 3.8 percent. Newcrest Mining Ltd., the country’s biggest gold miner, fell 2.8 percent.
But technology companies fared better, following on the heels of U.S. tech shares.
South Korea’s LG Electronics jumped 8.4 percent and Samsung Electronics, the world’s top global manufacturer of flat screen televisions, memory chips and liquid crystal displays, rose 2.2 percent. Hynix Semiconductor Inc. gained 2.9 percent.
Shares of Tokyo Electric Power Co. tumbled 13.7 percent following Japanese media reports that a government panel has estimated that compensation payments related to a nuclear leak following the March earthquake and tsunami disaster could reach as high as 5 trillion yen.
On Wall Street on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1.6 percent to close at 11,010.90. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index fell 2.1 percent to 1,151.06. The Nasdaq composite index fell 2.2 percent to 2,491.58
The decline followed three days of gains. Stocks rose earlier this week on hopes that Europe was moving closer to resolving its debt problems. The Dow soared 272 points on Monday, its fourth-largest increase this year, and another 147 points on Tuesday.
Benchmark crude for November delivery fell 36 cents to $80.86 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $3.24, nearly 4 percent, to $81.21 per barrel on the Nymex on Wednesday.
Oil rose sharply earlier this week on optimism Europe was getting a better handle on its debt crisis.
In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3604 from $1.3582 late Wednesday in New York. The dollar fell to 76.49 yen from 76.53 yen.