Uncertainty Grips World Financial Markets in Wake of European Elections

Posted May 7th, 2012 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Uncertainty is gripping world financial markets, after elections in Greece and France raised concerns about the future of austerity measures to help rescue Europe's debt-ridden governments and its ailing economies.

Key Asian markets fell sharply Monday, with Japan's Nikkei index closing down 2.8 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng off 2.6 percent. The Athens stock exchange plunged nearly 7 percent after the vote in Greek national elections left immediate formation of a new government in doubt.

U.S. stock markets edged lower in New York. After initially falling, both the Paris and Frankfurt markets ended up for the day. The value of the euro dipped below $1.30 before regaining some strength.

With Greek voters splitting their votes among a wide array of political parties, investors cut their holdings on the Athens market. Financial analyst Platon Monokroussos said the political uncertainty weighed heavily on stock trading.

“The local market is opening lower today with significant pressure on bank stocks. This is apparently a reflection of the uncertainty related to the election outcome. The eurozone is also trading lower today, and all eyes will be on the efforts by political parties to form a new coalition government in Greece.”

In France, voters elected Socialist Francois Hollande as president. He has has pledged to push back against German-led austerity programs and called for higher taxes on the wealthy and measures to boost economic growth.

Europe has spent hundreds of billions of dollars on bailouts – twice for Greece, and once each for Ireland and Portugal – and has a new rescue fund slated to take effect in July. But to get the money, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund insisted the countries make sharp, unpopular spending cuts.

The European concerns follow weaker-than-expected jobs data from the United States released Friday.