Asian markets headed lower today over mounting concerns about the health of Europe's banks and France's debt rating. Japan's Nikkei 225 index sank 1.3% to 8,922.32, wiping out gains of the previous day.
The country's strengthening currency clobbered Japan's behemoth export sector. Honda Motor Corp lost 3%, while Nissan Motor Corp stumbled 3.5%. Toyota, Mazda and Sukuzi Motor Corps each fell more than 1%.
Consumer electronics giants also slid, Sony Corp, by 2.4%; Panasonic Corp, by 2.2%. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index stumbled 1% to 19,489.03, but South Korea's Kospi index reversed earlier losses and rose 0.8% to 1,820.47.
On Wall Street yesterday, the Dow Jones industrial average closed down 519 points, with selling largely spurred by worries about Europe. American bank stocks took hits because investors fretted that debt problems overseas might reach the United States.
France came under pressure amid concerns that it could follow the US and become the next country to lose its top AAA rating. Standard & Poor's rating agency stripped the US of its AAA credit rating late last week, sending global stocks into a tailspin. The downgrade of US debt is fueling worries that France could be next to lose the rare top rating if it contributes to further bailouts of eurozone countries.