Euro zone debt crisis gets new Finnish threat
The euro fell on Monday and stocks were weaker as the rise of a euro-skeptic party in Finland added another potential hurdle to solving the euro zone's debt problems.
Equities were also weaker on disappointing European earnings and concerns about Japan's coming reporting season.
Gold and silver hit new record highs on inflation fears.
MSCI's all-country world stock index started what is in many places a holiday-shortened week trading down 0.3 percent.
The FTSEurofirst 300 was off half a percent and threatening to fall into the red for the year. Japan's Nikkei closed down 0.36 percent.
Finnish voters handed the anti-euro True Finns party a crucial role in parliament and possibly a path into government.
The significance is that Finland's parliament has the right to vote on European Union requests for bailout funds, meaning it could hold up costly plans to shore up Portugal and bring stability to debt markets.
Talk about Greek restructuring of its debt has also boiled up in recent weeks, including a Greek newspaper report on Monday that the government had asked the International Monetary Fund and European Union to start discussions on a restructuring. A Greek finance ministry source said the report was not true.
Equities, however, were also being hurt by an increasing concern that the current earnings season is not going to be as good as recent quarters.
"Company results haven't been that great and there are concerns that margins for a lot of companies are not going to rise. The bias for the market is more on the downside. There are a lot of risks and you may get a serious knock," said Koen De Leus, strategist at KBC Securities in Brussels.
Dutch consumer electronics major Philips Electronics posted lower-than-expected first-quarter net profit and said it would divest its struggling television business . Citigroup Inc is expected to report a drop in quarterly profit and revenue later, as an uncertain trading environment and weak consumer loan demand hinder its efforts to move past the financial crisis.
The euro hit a 10-day low against the dollar on concerns about Greek restructuring and the Portuguese bailout.
It fell 0.8 percent to $1.4319
"The focus is turning toward the Greek situation and is acting as a dampener on the euro - it would be the first restructuring and the market has no idea when or whether it will happen," said Mic Ingenuus, currency strategist at Nordea in Copenhagen.
Analysts were skeptical the Finnish vote could derail the Portuguese bailout but it added to already negative sentiment.
The euro was down 0.8 percent at $1.4319.
On bond markets, Portuguese, Spanish and other lower-rated euro zone government debt came under pressure.
[Source: By Jeremy Gaunt, European Investment Correspondent, Reuters, 18Apr11]
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