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Fears over Greek debt crisis hammer markets and euro

business Updated: May 05, 2010 10:31 IST

AFP
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Asian stock markets were battered on Wednesday and the euro sank to a fresh one-year low as investors were jolted by fears that the fallout from Greece's debt crisis could spread.

Regional investors went into sell-off mode after European and US markets dived on fears that a 110-billion-euro rescue package for Athens may not be enough while rumours circulated that Spain was also seeking a bailout.

The euro sank to 1.2959 US dollars by 0250 GMT, down from 1.2981 in New York late Tuesday and to 122.77 yen from 125.10.

Jitters intensified on reports of mounting public outrage in Greece, where thousands of workers took to the streets to protest against planned wage and spending cuts ahead of a general strike Wednesday.

Some unfurled banners on the Acropolis reading "Peoples of Europe, Rise Up".

"The market is literally not buying the notion that the 110 billion euro aid package for Greece is a panacea," said Patrick O'Hare of Briefing.com

"The message of the markets is that European officials have more to do to prove that they have the resolve to keep Greece's problems from spreading."

Hong Kong dived 1.81 per cent, Sydney 1.76 per cent and Singapore 1.08 per cent while Taipei was 2.65 per cent lower. Tokyo is closed for a public holiday.

Asian exporters were also hit by the plummeting euro as it makes imports for European companies more expensive.

Analysts questioned whether the bailout would be enough to allow Greece to raise its own private financing on bond markets by next year.

"After a closer examination of the Greek financials, the 110 billion euros on the table from the EU and IMF will not be sufficient unless private markets start lending again," said Currencies Direct analyst Philip Ryan.

Greece turned to the eurozone and IMF for help after its borrowing costs surged as the scope of its debt and public deficit crisis became fully apparent.

On Tuesday, Greece's cost of borrowing through 10-year bonds rose to nearly 9.4 per cent interest, up from just under 8.5 on Monday.

Concerns of contagion were stoked Tuesday following rumours that Spain would also soon have to go cap-in-hand to the International Monetary Fund for a 280-billion-euro bailout.

But Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero dismissed the stories as "absolute madness" while the IMF also said there was "no truth" to the rumours.

European markets were hammered, with Athens diving 6.68 per cent, Madrid 4.70 per cent lower, London 2.56 per cent off, Frankfurt down 2.60 per cent and Paris 3.64 per cent lower.

The fear also hit Wall Street, where the Dow fell two per cent, with exporters also suffering from a stronger dollar.
In Asia, the greenback was trading at 94.77 yen in Asia compared with 94.64 in late US trade Tuesday.

The stronger US unit also hit the price of oil and gold down. New York's main contract, light sweet crude for June dropped 31 cents to 82.43 dollars and Brent North Sea crude was down 45 cents to 85.22 dollars a barrel.

Gold opened at 1,171.00-1,172.00 US dollars an ounce in Hong Kong, down from Tuesday's close of 1,178.00-1,179.00 dollars.

Sydney stocks continued to be pressured by a proposed 40 per cent tax on the "super profits" of mining companies -- those deemed to be to be above reasonable expected earnings -- announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd Sunday.

Heavyweight miner BHP Billiton plummeted 2.45 per cent and rival Rio Tinto dropped 2.88 per cent.

Shanghai was 1.80 per cent lower following China's latest moves to rein in lending as part of a bid to cap property prices weighed on sentiment.

On Sunday Beijing said it would raise from May 10 the amount of money banks must keep in reserve by 50 basis points, hitting banks and property firms hardest.