* European shares tumble, but pare initial losses
* Euro recovers after drop below $1.29 on Cyprus deal
* Spanish and Italian bonds yields jump
* Safe-haven gold jumps above $1,600
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, March 18 Global stock markets fell on
Monday as concerns over European sovereign debt returned to the
forefront after the euro zone's decision on partially funding a
bailout of Cyprus by taxing bank deposits.
The move hit confidence in the European banking sector,
sparking concerns that the euro zone might go after depositors
in other euro zone nations. The euro and bonds of troubled
European sovereign debtors also fell.
The declines gave U.S. equities investors the opportunity to
lock in profits after an extended rally last week, but losses
were limited as buyers came in after the early selling.
Financial shares were among the day's biggest losers.
The bloc struck a deal on Saturday to give Cyprus rescue
loans worth 10 billion euros ($13 billion), but defied warnings
- including from the European Central Bank - and imposed a levy
that would cost those with cash in the island's banks between
6.75 and 9.9 percent of their money.
Cyprus' parliament put off a vote on the measure, which has
shaken depositors' confidence in banks across the continent,
until Tuesday. With public anger at the deal widespread, the
government said it was looking to reduce the losses for small
"The worry is really about the possibility of contagion to
other European countries. Financials are lower here (in the
U.S.) as well also because of the worry that 'could it also
happen here?' which I don't think is the case," said Joe Bell,
senior equity analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research.
The deal staved off a default, which would have undermined
the promise that last year's Greek debt write-down was a
one-time event. But the move to hit depositors takes the euro
zone crisis into unprecedented territory.
The initial response of investors was unambiguous. European
shares followed Asian indexes lower and the euro fell to a
three-month low, while safe-haven assets such as gold and German
and U.S. government bonds jumped.
Italian and Spanish bond yields both rose sharply,
reflecting fears about the weakness of the two euro zone
economies and the size of their debt burdens.
European shares closed 0.2 percent lower, having at
one point been down as much as 1.4 percent. London's FTSE 100
, Frankfurt's DAX and Paris's CAC-40
were down 0.3 percent, 0.3 percent and 0.4 percent respectively,
leaving MSCI's global share index down 0.77
In the United States, the Dow Jones industrial average
was down 7.69 points, or 0.05 percent, at 14,506.42. The
Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 3.68 points, or 0.24
percent, at 1,557.02. The Nasdaq Composite Index was
down 3.18 points, or 0.10 percent, at 3,245.89.
Financial shares were among the weakest, with the S&P
financial index down 0.7 percent, while euro zone bank
shares lost 2.9 percent.
CENTRAL BANK SUPPORT
Some in the markets drew support from views that safety
measures put in place at the European Central Bank should
contain the fallout from Cyprus. In addition, three of the
world's biggest central banks are expected to signal this week
that they plan to keep monetary policy loose for the foreseeable
"Clearly this (Cyprus deal) is a negative development for
European assets, but in the terms of contagion, we think it is
quite limited," said Guillermo Felices, head euro asset
allocation at Barclays in London.
Other analysts noted shares are trading at historically
lofty levels, and therefore ripe for a pullback. Efforts by
policymakers to revise the Cyprus plan to spare small savers
from losses also supported the market.
The euro staged a slight recovery after dropping to a
three-month low of $1.2882 in Asian trading. It was down 1
percent overall on the day but was flat for the European session
The dollar, which investors often seek when tensions
in Europe rise, gained 0.3 percent against a basket of
The euro zone's bond market has been the main lightening rod
of its troubles over the last three-years.
While Italian and Spanish bond
yields jumped, the widespread anxiety drove up German government
bonds, the traditional favorite of risk-adverse
European investors, and boosted the cost of insuring against a
sovereign default in the euro zone's southern rim.
The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was up
9/32, the yield at 1.9598 percent.
In commodity markets, U.S. crude futures rose 0.1
percent while Brent crude was down 0.7 percent at
$109.05 per barrel.