Asian stocks fell on Tuesday and were on course for their worst quarterly performance since the end of 2008, while funding concerns in the euro zone sent the single currency tumbling to a record low against the Swiss franc.
The tepid nature of the rich world's recovery from global recession kept investors on the defensive, with a general flight to relative safe havens prompting a rebound for gold and falls in U.S. and Japanese government debt yields to multi-month lows.
European shares were also expected to fall, with financial bookmakers forecasting the benchmark indexes in Britain, France and Germany to open down 0.8-1.2 percent. Eurostoxx 50 Futures slid 1.7 percent. <.L>
Chinese stocks <.SSEC> fell 4 percent to a 14-month low, as investors started pulling funds from the market to prepare for a major initial public offering by Agricultural Bank of China, pointing to tight liquidity in China's markets. <.SS>
The market is still facing financing pressures and we are still worried about the domestic economy, said Zheng Weigang, an analyst at Shanghai Securities.
Tokyo's Nikkei <.N225> fell 1.3 percent to a three-week closing low and MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.6 percent.
The Nikkei has fallen around 14 percent in the second quarter and the MSCI AP ex-Japan is down roughly 8 percent, putting both on track for their worst quarterly performance since the meltdown in the final months of 2008 following the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
World stock markets rebounded strongly in 2009, but investors are now fretting about the uncertainty of the outlook as governments -- many facing ballooning debt burdens -- start to turn off the stimulus that supported the fledgling recovery.
The euro fell around 1 percent against the yen, dragged down by losses against the Swiss franc. It fell 0.2 percent on the day to touch 1.3323 francs on trading platform EBS, the weakest since its launch in 1999.
The pair has now lost 4 percent since June 17, when the Swiss central bank backed off from a pledge to fight excessive appreciation in the franc.
Traders in Asia said investors were wary of growth-linked currencies and the euro amid festering problems in the euro zone, where funding pressures re-emerged with interbank lending rates hitting their highest in almost seven months on Monday.
Banks must repay 442 billion euros ($545.5 billion) to the European Central Bank on Thursday, leaving a potential liquidity shortfall in the financial system of more than 100 billion euros.
The premium investors demand to hold 10-year Italian, French and Spanish government bonds, rather than euro zone benchmark German Bunds, all widened.
Renewed debt stress stories...have weighed a bit on the euro and led to renewed safe-haven parking in the yen and Swiss franc, said dealer at a Swiss bank.
Investors' sentiment toward peripheral Europe remains cautious and fragile to say the least.
The search for safer assets pushed the U.S. benchmark 10-year yield to its lowest since April 2009, while the benchmark Japanese Government Bond 10-year yield fell to a seven-year low.
Concerns about Europe's debt burden contributed to a rebound for gold, with spot prices for the safe-haven metal rising more than $3 to $1,239.20 an ounce.
Gold is likely to remain pretty well supported in the current quarter. Safe-haven demand for gold remains prominent, said David Moore, a commodity strategist at Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney.
The euro's weakness -- and consequent relative dollar strength -- also contributed to falling in oil prices, making dollar-denominated crude more expensive for buyers in Europe and Asia.
Oil fell nearly 1 percent to $77.53 a barrel, as forecasts indicated Tropical Storm Alex was likely to skirt the main production region in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.
Markets are concerned that European banks are pressed to pay 442 billion euros. If these worries sustain and the euro falls, a stronger dollar would pressure oil prices down, said Serene Lim, a Singapore-based oil analyst at ANZ Bank.