| GEO Business|
| Contagion fears jolt Asian markets|
| Updated at: 1459 PST, Friday, May 07, 2010|
HONG KONG: Eurozone debt fears engulfed Asian markets Friday, after US shares saw a spectacular intraday fall on deepening concerns that Greece's debt crisis would spread through Europe.
In an effort to bolster markets in Tokyo, the Bank of Japan offered to provide over 20 billion dollars in liquidity to financial institutions as stocks tumbled for a second successive day.
As markets convulsed and the euro hovered near 14-month lows, finance ministers of the Group of Seven industrialised nations were to hold an emergency conference call on the crisis, Japan's Finance Minister Naoto Kan said.
"The reason for today's fall is what everybody knows -- Greece," said Hideaki Higashi, a strategist at SMBC Friend Securities.
"The market is factoring in the possibility that this Greek problem will spread to Spain and Portugal."
Markets have been spooked by violent demonstrations in Athens this week including a bank firebombing that killed three, amid fears a 110-billion-euro (145-billion-dollar) EU-IMF bailout for Greece could prove insufficient.
Concerns are also mounting that the deal will fail to shield Spain and Portugal from crippling market pressures.
Moody's ratings agency on Thursday warned that the fallout from the Greek debt crisis presented a risk of "contagion" for the credit rating of banks in Britain, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
Markets in the region were lower, but recovered from earlier sharp falls.
Tokyo tumbled 3.10 percent, or 331.10 points, to end at 10,364.59 and Sydney was 2.02 percent, or 92.5 points, lower at 4,480.7.
Hong Kong lost 1.06 percent, or 213.12 points, to end at 19,920.29, while Shanghai was 1.87 percent off, losing 51.32 points to close on 2,688.38.
After the Australian market saw heavy losses in early trade, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said his government was watching developments to restore market confidence with "considerable concern".
"Markets have judged (the Greek bailout) arrangements to be inadequate," Rudd said.
Global shares had earlier tumbled on statements from European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet that offered no sign of intervention to stop the euro's slide.
And Japan's Kan ruled out any joint intervention by the G7 to buy the euro, which has tumbled against major currencies amid fears of contagion from the debt crisis, Dow Jones Newswires reported.
The single currency regained some ground to 1.2669 dollars from 1.2644 dollars in New York late Thursday, where the unit at one point hit 1.2523, its lowest since March 2009.
The region's traders took their cue from a stunning sell-off in US shares, which saw a record drop of almost 1,000 points, or about nine percent, before they recouped more than half those losses on Thursday.
The drop eclipsed even the crashes seen when markets reopened after September 11, 2001 and in the wake of the Lehman Brothers collapse.
The Dow closed 3.2 percent down, but spooked traders were left wondering whether a glitch had wiped out billions of dollars in value.
In Tokyo the Bank of Japan on Friday offered to provide two trillion yen (21.8 billion dollars) in liquidity to financial institutions against the banks' collateral pooled at the BoJ.
"The Bank of Japan aims to increase a sense of security in the markets by providing ample funds," said BoJ official Yuichi Adachi.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Thursday bulldozed a package of spending cuts and tax hikes through parliament with the help of his Socialist party's majority, as police battled hundreds of youth protestors outside.
Warning that "the future of Greece is at stake," he won backing for the plans, demanded by eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund in
return for a 110 billion euro (145 billion dollar) bailout.
Gold surged as investors sought the safe-haven investment, ending at 1,201.50-1,202.50 dollars an ounce, from Thursday's close of 1,177.50-1,178.50 dollars.
Oil was mixed, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June delivery falling four cents to 77.07 dollars a barrel, while Brent North Sea crude for June delivery rose 18 cents to 80.01 dollars a barrel.
"These European concerns have taken a big turn for the worse," said analyst Ben Potter of IG Markets. "It's going to be a very dark day across the board."
In other markets:
-- Singapore closed down 0.65 percent, or 18.54 points, at 2,821.11.
-- Seoul closed 2.21 percent, or 37.21 points, lower at 1,647.50.
-- Taipei fell 0.16 percent, or 12.38 points, to 7,567.10.
-- Kuala Lumpur closed flat, adding or 1.02 points to 1,332.89.
Glove-maker Top Glove gained 4.0 percent to 12.06 ringgit, telecommunications firm DiGi.com up 1.30 percent to 22.90 while Axiata added 2.90 percent to 3.93.
-- Jakarta lost 2.54 percent, or 71.28 points, to end at 2,739.33.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co lost 0.17 percent to 59.4 Taiwan dollars while United Microelectronics Corp was 0.34 percent higher at 14.8.
-- Manila closed 0.81 percent, or 25.77 points, lower at 3,142.06.
Top traded Bank of the Philippine Islands fell 3.45 percent to 42 pesos while Philippine Long Distance Telephone dropped 0.40 percent to 2,465 pesos.
Aboitiz Power bucked the trend, rising 3.45 percent to 15 pesos.
-- Wellington ended 1.84 percent, or 59.07 points, lower at 3,158.85.
Fletcher Building slipped 2.5 percent to 7.95 New Zealand dollars, while Contact Energy closed 2.1 percent down at 6.07.
Telecom closed down 0.9 percent at 2.13.