BANGKOK — Asian shares fell sharply Tuesday, battered by ongoing unrest in the Arab world, an earthquake in New Zealand and a downgrade of Japan's credit rating outlook.
Oil prices, meanwhile, soared to near $93 a barrel as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi struggled to keep his grip on power in the OPEC nation amid violent protests. In currencies, the dollar was higher against the yen, the euro and the New Zealand dollar.
The Nikkei 225 stock average shed 1.7 percent to 10,670.46, Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.9 percent to 23,027.57 and South Korea's Kospi was down 1.8 percent at 1,969.40.
Stock markets in Australia, Taiwan, Singapore and mainland China also retreated.
New Zealand's benchmark lost 0.9 percent to 3,351.1 after a powerful earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, the country's second-largest, causing widespread damage an unknown number of casualties.