PAMELA SAMPSONBANGKOK (AP) â¿¿ Asian stock markets climbed Tuesday amid hopes that radical steps are being considered to choke off a debt crisis threatening to rip apart the euro currency union, but European shares opened lower as the euphoria began to fade. Benchmark oil fell below $98 per barrel and the dollar dropped against the euro and the yen. Momentum in Asia sputtered by the time Europe's stock markets opened. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent to 5,281.74. Germany's DAX dropped 0.4 percent to 5,720.42 and France's CAC-40 shed 0.6 percent to 2,994.37. Wall Street appeared headed for a lower opening, with Dow Jones industrial futures slipping 0.2 percent to 11,478 and S&P 500 futures drifting 0.1 percent lower at 1,189.60. Stocks in Japan posted solid, broad-based gains, with the Nikkei 225 index in Tokyo climbing 2.3 percent to close at 8,477.82. Fears that the 17-country euro currency union may be on the verge of shattering eased after reports that Europe's leaders were considering extreme steps that were unthinkable just weeks ago â¿¿ such as having nations cede control over their budgets to a central European authority. Another option reportedly under consideration is for the 17 nations in the euro grouping to sell bonds together, known as eurobonds, to help the countries in the deepest trouble because of debt. Germany, with its top-notch credit rating, has steadfastly opposed participating in such a bond issue. But pressure on Berlin to change its stance has intensified as the region's debt crisis swells from small economies like Greece to major ones like Italy, threatening to bust apart the eurozone. Finance ministers were likely to discuss the options â¿¿ plus a possible way to boost the region's rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility â¿¿ at a meeting Tuesday. While some markets were posting gains, the absence of strong momentum suggested investors still saw troubling times ahead, according to Castor Pang, head of research at Core Pacific-Yamaichi in Hong Kong.
"The uncertainly over the euro debt crisis will continue to be a major key for the markets," Pang said.Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi rose 2.3 percent to 1,856.52 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 1.2 percent to 18,256.20. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Australia were also higher. Mainland Chinese shares advanced, with the benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gaining 1.2 percent to 2,412.39. A strong start to the U.S. holiday shopping season boosted hopes for growth in the world's No. 1 economy, which is a crucial market for many Asian exporters. Hong Kong-listed Zijin Mining Group, China's largest gold miner, soared 7.4 percent. Japanese steel maker JFE Holdings jumped 5.6 percent. Japan's export giants posted solid gains as the persistently strong yen weakened against the dollar. Hitachi Ltd. soared 5.5 percent, Fujitsu Ltd. gained 3.6 percent, and Honda Motor Corp. added 3.6 percent. Hong Kong retailers also rose. Jewelry seller Luk Fook Holdings jumped 6.5 percent on strong demand from China for jewelry and gold. Clothing retailer Esprit Holdings gained 4.6 percent. World stock markets, glimpsing hope that Europe might finally be shocked into stronger action, staged a big rally Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 291 points, or 2.6 percent â¿¿ its biggest gain in a month â¿¿ to close at 11,523.01. The S&P 500 rose 2.9 percent to 1,192.55. The Nasdaq composite rose 3.5 percent to 2,527.34. Benchmark crude for January delivery was down 48 cents to $97.73 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.44 to settle $98.21 on Monday. In currency trading, the euro rose to $1.3317 from $1.3306 late Monday in New York. The dollar fell to 77.81 yen from 77.99 yen. ___ AP researcher Fu Ting contributed from Shanghai.