HONG KONG - Asian markets were mixed in cautious trade on Thursday as Greek politicians struggled to form a coalition and European officials warned its latest tranche of bailout cash could be the last.
While confidence was given a slight lift by news that Athens would get its much-needed latest International Monetary Fund-European Union handout, Greece was told the next one could be withheld if a functioning government is not in place.
Adding to the uneasy mood were results from China showing import growth in April virtually unmoved while exports increased less than expected, adding to ongoing concerns about the world's number two economy.
Tokyo fell 0.39 per cent, or 35.41 points, to 9,009.65 and Seoul slipped 0.27 per cent, or 5.36 points, to 1,944.93 while Sydney gained 0.48 per cent, or 20.5 points, to 4,295.6.
Hong Kong fell 0.51 per cent, or 103.36 points, to 20,227.28 and Shanghai was flat, edging up 1.64 points to 2,410.23.
Global markets have been sent into a spin since ruling parties in Greece and France were swept aside by voters in a backlash against strict austerity policies introduced to fight the eurozone's crippling debt crisis.
The two main parties in Greece - the conservative New Democracy and Socialist Pasok - won less than a third of the national vote against groups campaigning against further cuts to services.
But with New Democracy and the radical left-wing Syriza, which came second on Sunday, saying they were unable to agree a coalition, analysts expect another election next month.
The delicacy of the situation was made clear by Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn on Wednesday, when he warned that future loans would not be forthcoming unless a stable government was set up.
"We have to say to the Greek people right now that the situation is serious, that no European Union country will be able to release even a portion of the 130 billion euros (S$214.071 billion) for the Greeks if there is no government that respects the rules and manages the disbursed money," he said in Brussels.
The events came as EU officials said Greece would receive a 4.2-billion-euro loan as expected on Thursday, but a further one billion would be held back until eurozone finance ministers meet on Monday.
That provided some support for the euro, which had tumbled in New York late Wednesday.
The single currency bought US$1.2947 (S$1.626) and 103.16 yen (S$1.599) in early European trade, stronger than US$1.2944 and 102.98 yen in New York late Wednesday.
The dollar was changing hands at 79.65 yen against 79.69.
On Wall Street, the Dow fell 0.75 per cent, the S&P 500 shed 0.67 per cent and the Nasdaq dropped 0.39 per cent.
On top of the Greek troubles, Spain's debt woes are coming back into view as reports of banking problems sent the market-borrowing rate on government bonds shooting above the critical 6.0 per cent level.
Chinese authorities said the economy posted a trade surplus of $18.4 billion in April, better than expectations but it came on the back of weak imports and exports.
The data showed imports edged up just 0.3 per cent year-on-year in April - well off the 10 per cent expected - while export growth slowed to 4.9 per cent, weaker than the 8.5 per cent increase forecast.
Oil prices fell in Asian trade, with New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in June, losing 39 cents to US$96.42 per barrel in the late afternoon and Brent North Sea crude for June delivery shedding 64 cents to US$112.56.
Gold was at US$1,591.25 an ounce at 1050 GMT, compared with US$1,585.50 late Wednesday.