Shares slip, euro at 4-month low on Cyprus fears

NEW YORK Wed Mar 27, 2013 4:36pm EDT

1 of 7. A trader looks at his screen on the IG Group trading floor in London March 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Neil Hall

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major stock markets fell and the euro slumped to a four-month low against the dollar on Wednesday, hit by a disappointing Italian bond auction and concern about a wider impact on the euro zone from Cyprus's bailout.

Bleak euro zone economic data added to a sour tone in markets, driving demand for safe-haven assets. U.S. Treasuries debt prices jumped, with benchmark yields falling to their lowest levels in three weeks and German Bunds also gained. Gold rose above $1,600 an ounce.

At a debt auction on Wednesday, Italy paid more to borrow over five years than it has since October as lack of progress in forming a new government and worries about Cyprus hurt demand. Cypriot banks are due to reopen on Thursday.

Cyprus is putting the final touches on capital control measures to prevent a run on banks after the country agreed to a bailout deal that will wipe out some senior bank bondholders and impose losses on large depositors.

The worry among investors is that despite attempts by some officials to dismiss the idea, the plan could become a blueprint for any future euro zone bailout.

"The overhang of the Cypriot bailout, and especially its implications for euro zone-wide banking depositors, along with a dip in confidence and lackluster Italian debt auctions, have upset the apple cart for U.S. investors determined to assault record stock market highs," said Andrew Wilkinson, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak + Co, LLC in New York.

U.S. stocks ended slightly lower after a rally on Monday propelled the S&P 500 to within striking distance of an all-time closing high.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI dropped 33.49 points, or 0.23 percent, to close at 14,526.16. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index .SPX fell 0.92 points, or 0.06 percent, to end at 1,562.85. The Nasdaq Composite Index .IXIC gained 4.04 points, or 0.12 percent, to 3,256.52.

MSCI's index of world shares .MIWD00000PUS, which tracks 6000 stocks in 45 countries, fell 0.2 percent to 358.71 points. European shares .FTEU3 dropped 0.4 percent to end at 1,184.06 points, a three-week closing low.

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury notes were up 18/32 in price to yield 1.8471 percent.

The euro fell as low as $1.2750, the weakest since November 21, and last traded at $1.2772, down 0.7 percent on the day.

"Rising Italian borrowing costs and its political situation are both negatives," said Greg Anderson, G10 strategist at Citigroup in New York. "Investors are not overly short the euro, so there is plenty of scope for the euro to test the lows of the past cycle."

Data on Wednesday showed confidence in the euro zone's economy fell more than expected in March after four straight months of gains. Other reports showed a slump in Italian manufacturing and retail sales and contraction in France's economy at the end of last year.

The dollar was little changed at 94.43 yen, while the dollar index, which tracks the greenback versus a basket of major currencies, rose to a more than seven-month high of 83.302 .DXY. The index was last up 0.4 percent at 83.247.

German government Bund futures, an asset that investors value in times of increased tension, rose 75 ticks, their biggest jump since inconclusive Italian elections last month rattled markets.

Gold rebounded from early losses, with spot gold rising to $1,604.70 an ounce from $1,598.59 on Tuesday, as investors piled money into safe-haven investments.

Brent crude rose 33 cents to settle at $109.69 a barrel in choppy trade and U.S. crude futures gained 24 cents to settle at $96.58.

News of fire alarms going off at Imperial Oil Ltd's (IMO.TO) site of its 121,000 barrel per day refinery near Sarnia, Ontario, sparked U.S. crude to turn higher in the hour ahead of settlement. Imperial later said the refinery was unaffected by the fire.

(Additional reporting by Richard Leong, Angela Moon and Julie Haviv in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Comments (2)
TommyPaine wrote:
The ESM’s capacity to lend 500m Euros (with a reserve of 200m) depends on a “capital call” on the Eurozone states. That capital call includes 120m Euros from Italy and lesser amounts from Spain, Cyprus, Slovenia, Malta, and Luxembourg. All of these countries are in trouble, and unlikely to pay what they have pledged if called upon to do so. Take Italy, for example; does anyone really believe that a Bersani government could gather the votes to fork over that enormous sum? Or take Spain, does anyone think that a Rajoy government could survive if it handed money to the ESM when the domestic unemployment rate is 26%?

It is only a matter of time before these fictions underlying the Eurozone experiment unwind, and European investors realize that the emperor has no clothes.

Mar 27, 2013 9:30am EDT  --  Report as abuse
CitizenPi wrote:
I am in Spain and I can tell that this is NO good. People are talking about it everywhere. Sorry, but I am working on an exit plan for my hard earned deposits.

Mar 27, 2013 6:02pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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