World markets continue to slump on Eurozone woes

Stocks on Wall Street resisted a further sharp drop as the Eurozone’s debt problems continue to send world markets tumbling.

In Greece, nationwide protests and a general strike against austerity measures turned violent with firebomb attack on a central Athens bank killing three people. Rioters trashed businesses and broke shop windows throughout the capital.

The government cutbacks are part of a €110 billion bailout loan from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to pay Greece’s spiraling sovereign debt.

Shares are down again in Europe and Asia, while most commodity prices also fell. The euro has steadied after falling below the $US1.30, a 14-month low.

On Wall Street, industrial, energy and materials stocks led the way lower, though gains in other categories helped to limit the market's losses. Upbeat earnings news helped the financial sector, while consumer staples and healthcare benefited from some buying.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 59.94 75 points, or 0.5%, down at 10,866.83, while the S&P 500-stock index was 0.5% lower at 1165.87. Traders said technical support was helping to limit losses.

The Nasdaq Composite finished 0.8% lower at 2402.29.

Other markets

European stocks sank for a second day as Moody’s placed Portugal's debt on watch with negative implications.

The Athens stock market tumbled nearly 4% to a 52-week low, hit hardest by slumping bank stocks. Spain's IBEX finished down 2.3% at 9635.2 and Portugal's PSI-20 ended 1.5% lower at 6990.22.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 closed down 1% at 250.55 though managed to come off from its intraday low of 248.93.

The UK's FTSE 100 ended down 1.3% at 5341.93, France's CAC-40 finished 1.4% lower at 3636.03 and Germany's DAX finished down 0.8% at 5958.45.

Asia's stocks were mostly lower, adding to losses so far this year in markets in and around China.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 2.1% to 20,327.54 and is now down 7.1% since the start of the year.

Taiwan's main index fell nearly 3% and is now off 6% for the year. China's benchmark Shanghai Composite, which rose 0.8%, is off 13% in 2010.

India's Sensex was down 0.3% at 17,087.96 and has lost 2.2% for the year.

Japan and Korea were closed for holidays.

Commodities: Oil down, gold up

Crude-oil futures held steady around $US80 a barrel after a larger-than-expected rise in oil inventories.

The US Department of Energy reported a 2.8 million barrel rise in crude-oil inventories, larger than the 700,000-barrel rise predicted by the average of analyst forecasts.

Light, sweet crude for June delivery in New York declined $US2.30, or 2.8%, to $US80.44 a barrel, after earlier dropping to $US79.15 a barrel, its lowest intraday price in nearly six weeks. June Brent crude on the ICE futures exchange declined $US2.36, or 2.8%, to $US83.31 a barrel.

Gold futures turned positive, bucking the second day of sliding commodities, as it re-assumed its safe-haven identity.

The most-actively traded gold futures contract, for June delivery, gained $US5.80, or 0.5%, to settle at $US1175 an ounce in New York after falling as low as $US1156.20.

Currencies: Euro down, dollar up

The euro briefly rose above $US1.2900 but remained down on the day amid a continued flight to less risky assets.

The euro had fallen more than 1% to $US1.2803, its lowest level since March 2009, after Moody's put Portuguese bond ratings on review, reinforcing fears the Greek contagion could spread.
The euro is at $US1.2877 from $US1.3004 late on Tuesday and was at ¥121.28 compared with ¥122.84.

The dollar was at ¥94.20 from ¥94.46. The pound was at $US1.5130 from $US1.5158.

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