Asia Stocks Plunge After Europe Elections, US Data

BANGKOK (AP) - Asian stock markets are being pummeled Monday by weekend election results in Greece and France that heightened uncertainty about Europe's ability to solve its debt crisis.

Signs of a faltering economic recovery in the U.S. compounded the dour mood while oil slid below $97 a barrel. Japan's Nikkei 225 index plunged 2.6 percent to 9,134.26 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 2.4 percent to 20,582.24.

Election results in Greece sent tremors throughout Europe as voters punished the parties responsible for highly unpopular austerity measures instituted to prevent the country from defaulting on its massive debts.

No political party won enough votes to form a government -- leaving the political and financial future of the recession-hit country in serious doubt.

Meanwhile, in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy lost to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande, who had criticized the country's austerity program and wants to boost government spending.

A senior economist at Credit Agricole CIB in Hong Kong, said the election results are likely to heighten political instability and market volatility.