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Market upheavals strengthen fears of Greek crisis contagion

Stocks worldwide suffered sharp falls on Friday, pressuring EU leaders meeting in Brussels to formulate a plan to prevent the Greek debt crisis from spreading to other member countries.


REUTERS - Stocks fell in volatile trade around the world Friday on persistent fears the debt crisis in Greece could spread through the euro zone, while the dollar rose against the yen after strong U.S. jobs data.

The better-than-expected jobs figures, showing the U.S.  economy added 290,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in April, gave only minimal support to risky assets. U.S. stocks traded lower and oil prices shed more than 2 percent.
Sterling hit a one-year low beneath $1.45 after elections in Britain left no party with an outright parliamentary majority. It rebounded when Conservative Party leader David Cameron said he would try to form a minority government.
Speculation the European Central Bank may support other indebted euro zone countries and European banks helped the euro off a 14-month low against the dollar and eased fears Greece’s debt woes may ripple through the region, traders said.
Wall Street fell however, extending losses from Thursday when the Dow at one point suffered its biggest ever intraday point drop nearly 1,000 points.
Although some of Thursday’s precipitous fall was being blamed on erroneous trades, concerns about the euro zone debt woes persisted as investors feared further escalation in the crisis would hit economic growth and market sentiment.
“The market was already under pressure because of the growing recognition that the crisis in Greece has gone from being a Greek problem to a regional problem and now it’s morphing into a global problem,” Pacific Investment Management Co (Pimco) Chief Executive and Co-chief Investment Officer Mohamed El-Erian told Reuters Insider.
The Dow Jones industrial average and Standard & Poor’s 500 index posted their biggest weekly percentage declines since March 2009. The Nasdaq Composite Index had the largest weekly percentage fall since November 2008.
On Friday the Dow was down 113.59 points, or 1.08 percent, at 10,406.73. The S&P 500 was off 13.39 points, or 1.19 percent, at 1,114.76. The Nasdaq was down 43.11 points, or 1.86 percent, at 2,276.53.
“It’s amazing that you could say the jobs report may not be the big mover on a Friday of a jobs report number. I think we’re watching overseas and what’s going on in the equities market,” said Bill Schultz, chief investment officer at McQueen, Ball & Associates at Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.
European shares ended at a 6-month closing low, suffering their worst weekly fall since November 2008.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index of top shares closed down 3.9 percent at 967.42 after touching an 8-month intraday low, and ended the week down 8.9 percent.
Banking stocks’ earlier gains evaporated and they became the worst performers. BNP Paribas, Barclays and Societe Generale fell 5.5 to 7.8 percent. The STOXX Europe 600 banking index is down 16 percent so far this year.
In late afternoon trading in New York, the euro last traded 0.4 percent higher at $1.2711 after falling to $1.2520 on Thursday, its lowest since March 2009.
The euro lost more than 4 percent versus the dollar in the week and it is down about 11 percent this year.
Against the yen the euro rose 1.2 percent to 115.96 after dipping below 111 yen Thursday its lowest level since 2001.
Sterling was little changed at $1.4757, off a one-year low of $1.4475 touched after the election results, while the dollar rose 0.8 percent to 91.25 yen, but it remained off a session peak above 93 yen touched earlier.
U.S. Treasury debt prices fell Friday, taking back some of the sharp gains made Thursday, with the 10-year Treasury note trading 9/32 lower in price and its yield rising to 3.43 percent.
On the New York Mercantile Exchange, crude oil futures fell for a fourth day in a row and settled down $2, or 2.6 percent, at $75.11 a barrel, after falling further to $74.51, its lowest since Feb. 16.
Losses for the week totaled $11.04, or 12.8 percent, the worst since prices fell almost 27 percent in the week to Dec.  19, 2008.
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