NEW YORK, May 19 — World stocks erased the year’s gains yesterday as investors fled risky investments for safe-haven assets on concerns about the euro zone‘s deepening debt woes, while US stocks lost ground after the market debut of social network Facebook failed to lift optimism.
Brent crude briefly slipped below US$107 (RM334.91) per barrel to its lowest in 2012 as the euro zone crisis raised fears of a global slowdown that could dent oil demand, while German borrowing costs hit record lows.
World stocks, as measured by the MSCI index, dropped 1.1 per cent and to a level below where they began the year, having given up all the first-quarter gains fuelled by the European Central Bank’s injection of more than €1 trillion. The index was on track for a sixth day of losses.
Riskier assets were all heading for big weekly losses.
Investors were unnerved by a ratings downgrade of 16 Spanish banks by Moody’s Investors Service, which deepened worries about the euro zone contagion. US-listed shares of Spain’s Banco Santander, however, were up 3.1 per cent at US$5.73.
Spain’s banks, saddled with bad loans after a property boom collapsed, may need a bailout that would strain Madrid’s already stretched finances and possibly require an international bailout regardless of any contagion threat from Greece.
Ongoing political and financial turmoil in Greece has kept investors worried about its ability to remain in the euro zone.
In addition, a G8 meeting of leaders of major industrial economies takes place over the weekend, possibly making some investors wary of holding positions until Monday.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 65.35 points, or 0.53 per cent, at 12,377.14. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index was down 8.91 points, or 0.68 per cent, at 1,295.95. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 19.50 points, or 0.69 per cent, at 2,794.19.
US stocks were higher in early trading, but lost ground after midday. Facebook’s debut was hit with glitches. Initial trading was delayed, and the stock is struggling to hold above its US$38 offering price. It traded as high as US$45 and was last up 1.5 per cent at US$38.57.
The S&P has fallen 6.7 per cent so far in May, and while volatility is expected to continue, some analysts were forecasting a near-term rebound as valuations become more attractive.
The FTSEurofirst 300 of leading European shares slid 1.1 per cent, falling for a fifth day.
In the foreign exchange market, the euro rose from a four-month low against the dollar yesterday as investors pared bets against the single currency after a 4 per cent drop this month.
NYMEX crude for June delivery settled at US$91.48 a barrel, falling US$1.08, or 1.17 per cent. For the week, it slid 4.84 per cent. Brent crude was down 45 cents at US$107.04 a barrel.
German bond yields hit record low
Benchmark 10-year German bond yields hit a record low of 1.396 per cent and two-year yields also fell to their lowest-ever level at just 0.028 per cent.
US Treasury prices were lower. The benchmark 10-year US Treasury note was down 7/32 in price, the yield at 1.71 per cent. Gold prices rose more than 1 per cent, with spot gold at US$1,591.10 an ounce. — Reuters