Euro swings as Stoxx 600 retreats aftergreek election

2015-01-26 11:23:11

The euro reversed losses and Europe’s benchmark stock index slipped from a seven-year high as investors assess the impact of Greek voters handing victory to a party that wants a writedown of the country’s debt. Russia’s ruble slid, while crude oil and industrial metals retreated.

The 19-nation euro added 0.2 percent to $1.1223 by 8:31 a.m. in London after weakening to as low as $1.1098, the least since September 2003. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index, which closed at a seven-year high on Friday, retreated 0.5 percent while Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures sank 0.4 percent. Greek stocks fell 0.4 percent at the open. Russia’s ruble tumbled 2.4 percent as fighting in Ukraine spread. U.S. crude declined 1.2 percent and nickel slid 0.9 percent in London. China’s yuan headed for its biggest two-day drop since 2008 to the dollar.

Greece’s Syriza won a more decisive victory than polls predicted, coming within two seats of an absolute majority with most votes counted. The success of Syriza, which pledged to secure a writedown of the nation’s debt and end austerity measures, is spurring concern that opponents of the European Union’s efforts to impose fiscal discipline elsewhere may also win power. Germany’s Ifo Business Expectations survey is due, while fighting in Ukraine spread to the port city of Mariupol.

“Nervous moves around currencies are to be expected,” said Miyuki Ohgami, Senior Strategist at Mizuho Securities Co. in Tokyo. “The fact that anti-austerity forces had such a big win suggests negotiations will be drawn out, and stocks were sold on this. But I think the market is getting calmer in its assessment of the situation and the negative effects won’t spread to the entire European region.”

Exit Risk

Tsipras, 40, has pledged to keep the nation within the single currency area as he negotiates a writedown of Greek debt and eases budget constraints that were imposed in return for aid after the country’s economic collapse. The current round of funding expires on Feb. 28 and talks with the so-called troika - - the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank -- for its renewal have stalled since September amid demands for further belt tightening.

Germany’s Finance Ministry said in a statement that Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s position was unchanged after the election result and “the agreements reached with Greece remain valid.” Finance ministers from the euro area are due to discuss Greece and its bailout in Brussels on Monday.

The euro retreated 7.4 percent versus the dollar this year through Friday, the biggest decline among 16 major currencies tracked by Bloomberg. The ECB last week pledged to pump 1.1 trillion euros ($1.2 trillion) into the region’s economy to stave off deflation and ignite growth.

Yuan Slump

The euro’s slide is putting pressure on China’s yuan, which today rose through 7 per euro for the first time since 2001. Europe as a bloc is the biggest trading partner for the world’s second-largest economy, where exports made up 26 percent of gross domestic product at the end of 2013, according to the World Bank.

The yuan’s two-day drop of as much as 0.8 percent pushed it to a record 1.89 percent discount to the central bank’s reference rate. It sank as low as 6.2569 per dollar as the People’s Bank of China cut its daily fixing by 0.07 percent to 6.1384 a dollar, the lowest since Dec. 4. The spot rate rate is allowed to diverge a maximum 2 percent from the fixing.

Russia’s currency slid to 65.7490 per dollar and 2.5 percent to 73.911 to the euro. The U.S. and the EU warned Russia may face further repercussions after a rocket attack on the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol on Saturday. The projectiles were launched from rebel-held territory, the U.S., NATO, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said. The separatists blamed government forces.

Europe Stocks

Just four of the 19 industry groups on the Stoxx 600 climbed today. Basic resources companies led declines as copper dropped as much as 3.2 percent to $5,345 a ton in London, trading near the lowest since July 2009. Nickel lost as much as 2.3 percent. The Bloomberg Commodity Index slid 0.8 percent.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average retreated 0.4 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index fell 0.3 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.6 percent on Friday in New York, paring a weekly gain to 1.6 percent.

West Texas Intermediate crude fell to $45 a barrel after settling Jan. 23 at its lowest price since March 2009. Crude stockpiles in the U.S., the world’s biggest oil consumer, rose 7.4 percent from last year to end December at 383.5 million barrels, the American Petroleum Institute said in a monthly report.

U.S. oil erased gains spurred by the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Jan. 23 after his successor said policies won’t change in the world’s largest crude exporting nation. Brent crude was down 1.7 percent to $47.97 per barrel.