Asian stocks slid Monday and the euro sank to a 10-year low against the yen, after the resignation of a top German European Central Bank board member cast further doubt on the region's ability to tackle its debt crisis.
Oil and copper prices fell and the dollar gained broadly as worries about the euro zone's woes combined with fears about the flagging world growth to ensure no let-up in the gloom that has gripped global markets for much of the past six weeks.
People are quite nervous about Greece and other countries in the European area, so that is why investors are escaping to the dollar, Tetsu Emori, a fund manager at Tokyo-based Astmax Co Ltd, told Reuters. It's risk aversion.
Juergen Stark's resignation from the ECB's board underscored the internal divisions over its bond-buying program -- one of the central bank's main weapons in fighting the debt crisis by forcing down yields of countries under pressure from the bond markets.
Japan's Nikkei fell 2.1 percent to a six-month low, while the MSCI's broadest index of Asia Pacific shares outside Japan fell 2.6 percent and U.S. index futures traded in Asia fell 0.9 percent.
For the rest of the week, developments in euro zone debt problems and movements in the euro will likely set the direction of the market, said Yutaka Miura, a senior technical analyst at Mizuho Securities in Tokyo.
Wall Street stocks tumbled on Friday, when the Stark news broke, with the S&P 500 index falling 2.7 percent, and European shares also fell more than 2 percent.
Data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters service, showed that a brief flirtation with stocks at the end of August has waned, with less than a net $600 million flowing into U.S. equity funds last week, compared with a net inflow of $6.3 billion in the previous week.
MSCI's All-Country World index is now 19 percent below its 2011 high set in May, not far from the 20 percent decline that is the rule-of-thumb definition of a bear market.
The fund flow picture for emerging Asian equity markets was mixed. Citigroup analysts said in a note that China and Indonesia had seen modest net inflows last week. The biggest outflows were from regional funds and the cyclical markets of South Korea and Taiwan.
Adding to the euro zone's difficulties, top French banks were bracing for credit rating downgrades on worries about their sovereign debt exposure, and senior German politicians in Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition began talking openly about a Greek default.
A growing number of policymakers, as well as market economists, are convinced it is only a matter of time before Greece, which keeps falling behind on its fiscal targets after two EU/IMF bailouts, will have to default.
The outlook for Greece is almost completely unknown. Support for the country appears to be shaking. The market is starting to think the worst could happen, said Katsunori Kitakura, chief dealer at Chuo Mitsui Trust and Banking.
The euro fell as low as $1.3550, its worst since late February, and later traded around $1.3570, after a sharp slide at the end of last week. Against the yen, the single currency fell as far as around 104.90, its lowest since 2001.
Meanwhile, the dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of major currencies, rose around 0.4 percent to near a one-month high set on Friday.
U.S. crude oil fell by $1.28 to $85.96 a barrel and Brent crude eased 89 cents to $111.77 Copper was down 0.9 percent at $8,743.25 a ton.
Both commodities are sensitive to expectations for global growth, and hence industrial demand.
Currencies of major commodity producers were, in turn, under pressure, with the Australian dollar falling more than 1 percent to a three week low around $1.0363.
Gold, which has been striking a succession of records due to its traditional appeal as a safe haven at times of market volatility, fell 0.5 percent to around $1,848 an ounce as a stronger dollar made it more expensive for holders of other currencies.
Gold priced in euros, however, hit a record 1,373.30 an ounce.
Japanese government bonds tracked gains in U.S. Treasuries and German bunds as investors sought the perceived safest government debt, with the benchmark 10-year JGB yield falling below 1 percent.
(Reporting by Alex Richardson and Alejandro Barbajosa in Singapore, Ian Chua in Sydney and Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo; Editing by Ramya Venugopal)