Japanese shares hit a one-year low early on Monday following big falls in the US and as oil prices dropped below $28 for the first time since 2003.
The benchmark Nikkei 225 fell to its lowest level since the beginning of 2015. By mid-morning it had regained some ground and was down 1.37% at 16,912.23.
In Australia, investors were also reacting to falling oil prices.
The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.8% at 4,854.40 points.
Energy-related stocks were falling across the board, with BHP Billiton shares down 3.2%, Woodside down 1.8%, and Santos shares down nearly 7%.
The country’s big lenders were also seeing falls on Monday, with ANZ’s shares down 1.2% and Westpac’s down 1%.
In South Korea, the benchmark Kospi index was down 0.39% at 1,871.61, in line with falls across the region.
In China, analysts said they expected markets to be hurt further this week by falling oil prices, together with continued worries about the mainland’s economic growth. The country’s latest quarterly gross domestic product numbers are out on Tuesday.
Monday’s property numbers showed housing prices rising 1.6% in December from a year earlier. The country’s housing market accounts for about 15% of the economy and the December numbers mark the third consecutive month of year-on-year gains.
Investors seemed to be acting on the upbeat report, with the Shanghai Composite moving out of negative territory – albeit only briefly.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 1.5% to 19,315.60, while the Shanghai Composite was flat at 2,901.28 in mid morning trade.