Asia shares mixed as eurozone debt fears return

HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed while the safe-haven yen edged up on Friday following a sell-off on Wall Street and in Europe as fears over eurozone debt resurfaced with a payment crisis at Portugal's biggest listed bank.

News that the parent of Banco Espirito Santo had covered up a $1.8 billion hole in its accounts fanned worries of a return to the debt crisis that wracked Europe just three years ago. Tokyo fell 0.34 per cent, or 52.43 points, to 15,164.04 and Seoul eased 0.70 per cent, or 14.10 points, to 1,988.74, while Sydney added 0.41 per cent, or 22.4 points, to close at 5,486.8.

Shanghai put on 0.42 per cent, or 8.62 points, to 2,046.96 while in the afternoon Hong Kong was 0.34 per cent lower. Bangkok is closed for a public holiday. US and European shares sank on Thursday as it emerged that Espirito Santo International, the bank's holding firm, had failed to make payments on some short-term debt. Trading in the bank's shares were suspended in Lisbon on Thursday after its shares plummeted 17.24 per cent.

The crisis comes less than two months after Portugal exited a three-year, $106 billion international bailout which had helped the government avert a default. It also revived memories of the eurozone sovereign and banking debt crisis of 2011 that saw a number of nations go to the wall. "Is this just an isolated event or is it the first chink in the chain to fire contagion fears?" said IG Markets strategist, Evan Lucas, according to Dow Jones Newswires.

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