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Asian stocks, euro plummet on US jobs data and Hungary fears

The euro fell below 1.19 dollars in Asian trade on Monday for the first time since March 2006 on the back of poor US jobs data and fears Europe's debt crisis will spread to Hungary.


AFP - Global stock markets were in the red on Monday in fraught trade as investors tried to make sense of fresh European debt concerns sparked by Hungary and mixed economic data.

Dealers said that a much weaker-than-expected US jobs report on Friday jolted confidence in the US and global economic recovery after weeks of attrition driven by fears the European debt crisis could doom the euro.

"Today's mood is a somber one," said analyst Patrick O'Hare of Wall Street's weaker opening on Monday.

The May jobs figures "underscored the reality of an anaemic employment situation that could endure for some time in spite of a broad economic recovery," O'Hare said.

"The uncertainty has infiltrated the markets," he said.

Comments by Hungarian officials last week that Budapest could be in the same boat as Greece added to the pressure, raising the spectre that already struggling European banks could be hurt by any exposure there.

Wall Street lost more than three percent on Friday after the US jobs data which ensured that Asian markets fell sharply on Monday, with Tokyo tumbling 3.84 percent, Hong Kong off 2.03 percent and Sydney down 2.78 percent.

Europe in turn was weaker from the start, kept on the backfoot by the Asian lead and then driven lower as Hungary said it would keep its public finances under control but failed to announce a budget package, as expected.

Better-than-expected April industrial orders in Germany, Europe's strongest economy, provided some relief but an uncertain start on Wall Street then undercut an attempted rebound.

In New York, the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.10    percent at 9,922.22 points, holding well short of the key 10,000 points level it lost on Friday.

The tech-rich Nasdaq Composite was off 0.67 percent at around 1545 GMT.

In London, the benchmark FTSE 100 index of leading shares closed down 1.11 percent at 5,069.06 points. In Paris, the CAC 40 fell 1.21 percent at 3,413.72 points and in Frankfurt the DAX shed 0.57 percent to 5,904.95 points.

The euro meanwhile struggled against the dollar but came off its early lows as the day progressed.

The euro was at 1.1973 dollars in late London trade, little changed from 1.1972 dollars in New York on Friday but well off 1.1876 dollars, touched in Asian trade, which was the lowest level since March 10, 2006.

"Rising fears about Hungary’s fiscal situation spurred investors to sell the European currency," said analysts at ETX Capital.

Rajesh Patel, head trader at Spread Company, said the euro got some support from the German industrial orders data but "markets are extremely nervous and all eyes will once again be on the euro, as every bounce meets strong selling."

Analysts said the alarm over Hungary hit sentiment badly.

"The dramatic movements in Hungarian financial assets late last week highlight how sensitive markets are to any bad news with respect to sovereign solvency," ING analyst Padhriac Garvey said.

"One of the more worrying themes in the past week or so is that the likes of Italy and Belgium have come under more pressure than they have been used to. Austria too has been dragged wider, partly on Central European links."

Dealers said the banks were under fire from all sides, with the Hungarian lead stoking concerns about their possible exposure to Eastern Europe while the euro could easily fall further.

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