Tokyo: Asian stocks dropped to their lowest levels of the year on Friday as the lack of a breakthrough in Europe's attempts to shake off its debt crisis and weak global growth continued to weigh on market sentiment.
The MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan slipped 0.7 percent, after edging up as much as 0.3 percent earlier, hitting its lowest since late December as worries about a possible Greek exit from the eurozone continued to weigh on the market.
The pan-Asia stock index was set for a third consecutive week of losses, its longest losing streak in six months. In late February, it had been up some 15 percent from end 2011 levels.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei was flat, but looked set for its longest weekly losing run in 20 years.
US stock futures fell 0.4 percent, after Wall Street ended slightly higher overnight.
Concerns about global growth and a failure by European policymakers to make any significant breakthroughs to resolve the debt crisis have curbed risk appetite and strengthened demand for highly rated government bonds. Germany's 10-year government bond yield fell to a record low of 1.35 percent on Thursday.
The euro remained pressured by the uncertain outlook for the fate of Greece - as well as that of the entire currency bloc - and traded down 0.1 percent at USD 1.2525 after falling to its lowest since July 2010, at USD 1.25155, on Thursday.
The dollar index measured against key currencies hovered near a 20-month high of 82.376 hit on Thursday, due to its safe-haven appeal.
Asian credit markets were firmer, with the spread on the iTraxx Asia ex-Japan investment-grade index narrowing by 2 basis points.
Oil, which retained its gains earlier, succumbed to the general retreat in broader markets, with U.S. crude futures down 0.1 percent at USD 90.61 a barrel and Brent futures flat at USD 106.54 a barrel.
Spot gold continued to track the euro lower, falling 0.3 percent to USD 1,552.81 an ounce.
With Agencies Input
First Published: Friday, May 25, 2012, 09:11