* European economic and political risks hit shares
* Euro pulls away from two-week high, set to remain weak
* U.S. stocks open sharply lower
By Luciana Lopez
NEW YORK, April 23 Global stocks and the euro
slid on Monday as investors, rattled by a slump in the euro
zone's private sector and a Dutch budget crisis, rushed to
perceived safe havens such as the dollar.
With the Dutch government set to resign on Monday in an
impasse over budget cuts and dismal PMI figures from the euro
zone, economists worried that the region's economy will stay in
recession until the second half of the year.
U.S. stocks fell sharply soon after opening, with the Dow
Jones industrial average, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index
and the Nasdaq Composite Index all dropping more
than 1 percent.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc sank more than 4 percent after
the New York Times reported officials at the retailer stymied an
internal investigation into allegations of extensive bribery at
its Mexican subsidiary.
European stocks fell, as well, with the FTSE Eurofirst
index of top European shares off 2.17 percent, after
having posted its best week in a month. The euro fell against
both the dollar and the yen, dropping 0.68 percent to $1.3131
and 1.17 percent to 106.50 yen.
"Our base case scenario is still for a gradual return to
modestly positive growth in the second half of this year, but
with the lingering debt crisis and the ongoing drag from fiscal
policy, the risks are clearly skewed to a more protracted
recession," said Martin van Vliet of ING, speaking of the euro
Dutch and peripheral euro zone bonds sold off, driving
Spanish yields back above 6 percent and taking the spread of
Dutch bonds over German benchmarks to its highest
in three years.
Adding to the uncertainty, anti-immigration crusader Marine
Le Pen surged to a third-place finish in the first-round of the
French presidential elections; stealing the show from the two
front runners the Socialist front-runner Francois Hollande and
incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.