Disruptions to export financing in 2008 undermined sales and helped trigger a sharp economic slump in Asia. While Asian companies have sought to broaden their financing sources since the crisis, the region remains vulnerable to a European credit squeeze.
Figures from the Bank for International Settlements show overseas lending, particularly by European banks and in the bank-to-bank market, has been in retreat for months. Japan and Switzerland were the only two nations whose banks increased overseas lending in the final quarter of 2011 but not by enough to offset the overall decline.
Moody's Analytics estimates that should Greece leave the euro and the subsequent financial contagion were limited to Europe, Asian manufacturing growth would likely slow to 5 percent by March 2013 from a year earlier, or 4 percentage points less than if there were no contagion. If contagion spread to the U.S., Asian industrial output would likely fall 8.5 percent in March, Moody's said.
"If Greece does leave, the chances are that the exit will be disorderly," Moody's said. "Asian producers rely on European banks for export financing and would struggle under a scenario of European financial stress."
Low sovereign debt levels, trade surpluses and large foreign currency reserves should cushion Asia from turbulence in Europe and the U.S. The International Monetary Fund expects Europe's economy to contract 0.3 percent this year while the U.S. expands 2.1 percent and emerging Asia grows 7.3 percent.
Policymakers in the region also look poised to start using stimulus measures to arrest the decline in growth after spending most of the last couple years seeking to tame inflation pressures.
Beijing cut interest rates last week for the first time in nearly four years after its economy grew 8.1 percent in the first quarter, the slowest pace in almost three years.
However, inflation fears persist and China and others in Asia will be reluctant to unleash massive stimulus spending like they did in 2008, leaving manufacturers a longer road back to full production in the event of a financial crisis.
"It's simply becoming harder and harder to apply a powerful stimulus without negative side-effects," said HSBC's Neumann.
AP Business Writer Erika Kinetz in Mumbai, India and AP researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this story.
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