European stocks slide with Greece, U.S. rate fear denting trading mood

London (Mar 10)  European stock markets continued their descent on Tuesday, as concerns over Greece’s reform program and speculation about a rate hike in the U.S. outweighed optimism over the European Central Bank’s bond buys.

The benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, -0.88%  slumped 0.8% to 390.18. But capping losses for the index, banking giant Credit Suisse Group AG CSGN, +7.54% CS, +6.16% jumped 7.2% after news that Prudential CEO Tidjane Thiam will take over the helm at the Swiss bank.

Greece jitters: With little data to distract on Tuesday, ongoing concerns about Greece’s financial situation continued to weigh on the trading mood. The Eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers on Monday urged Greece to stop wasting time and get moving on identifying economic reforms that satisfy its international lenders — a prerequisite to unlock the next tranche of financial aid to Greece. The country is at risk of running out of cash later this month, unless it receives more money.

Technical talks on the economic measures will begin on Wednesday.

The uncertainty over Greece’s financial future has over the past few months fanned fears the country will eventually leave the eurozone, although most economists consider it a relatively small risk. If, however, it were to happen, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said in a note on Tuesday it would likely not have a significant impact on foreign banks, which was a major concern during the height of the eurozone crisis.

“We consider the direct impact on foreign banks from a Grexit or from continuing uncertainty about it as limited because they have relatively limited direct exposure to Greek banks or to Greece’s public and private sector, having significantly reduced their lending since the restructuring of Greek government debt in 2012,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Osman Sattar in the report.

Meanwhile, Ecofin — the group of European Union finance ministers — met in Brussels for an ordinary meeting.

U.S. rate blues: European stock markets were also hampered by a selling spree in U.S. stock futures, spurred by nervousness about what’s seen as an inevitable U.S. rate hike this year. A solid February jobs report released last week has increased speculation the Federal Reserve’s statement next week might hint at a rate increase before year-end.

ECB’s cash injection: While grappling with Greece, investors also monitored the effect of the ECB’s 60-billion-euro ($64.5 billion) a-month quantitative easing program that was kicked off Monday. Bond yields across most of the eurozone dropped close to record lows on the launch date and continued to decline on Tuesday. The yield on 10-year German government bunds TMBMKDE-10Y, -25.95% fell 5 basis points to 0.263%, a record low, according to electronic trading platform Tradeweb.

Euro slide: The shared currency fell to its lowest level since April 2003, hit by the Greek jitters and weakened by the ECB’s QE program. Rising speculation about a potentially forthcoming U.S. rate hike helped boost the dollar, which in turn added more pressure on the euro. The euro EURUSD, -0.97%  exchanged hands at $1.0742, down from $1.0853 late Monday in New York.

Other indexes: Germany’s DAX 30 index DAX, -1.13%  dropped 1.3% to 11,431.43, falling back from a record closing high reached on Monday.

France’s CAC 40 index PX1, -1.28%  lost 1.2% to 4,876.50. The U.K.’s FTSE 100 index UKX, -1.57%  traded 1.5% lower at 6,770.49.

Source: MarketWatch