March 6, 2021

U.S. Markets Slip After Europe and Asia Decline

Any gains would be a welcome relief after a string of declines over seven consecutive days in the broader market on Wall Street.

In early trading in New York, stocks continued their losing streak. The Standard Poor’s 500-stock index was down 15.65 points, or 1.25 percent. The Dow Jones industrial average was off 127.61 points, or 1.08 percent, and the Nasdaq index was off 37.71 points, or 1.41 percent.

The markets have remained volatile amid deep fears about budgetary problems in Europe and evidence of weak growth in the United States. But the yields on the bonds of the most indebted countries have eased a bit.

Gold, traditionally seen as an investment for times of uncertainty, spiked to yet another nominal record high of $1,671 an ounce, and the Swiss central bank took action to try to weaken its currency, another safe haven.

Analysts have cited unresolved issues in the new rescue package announced last month for Greece — which was meant to bolster the other weak euro-zone economies as well — as a main contributor to the renewed pressure in European bond markets.

The president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, announced Wednesday that he had written to national leaders urging them to “send an unambiguous signal of the euro area’s resolve” by speeding up enactment of the commitments they made last month.

That meeting announced a plan to include private bondholders in the rescue of indebted nations as well as extending the power of a European bailout fund, known as the E.F.S.F.

“The necessary technical work to implement the measures agreed on 21 July is already underway and will be completed as a matter of urgency,” he said. However, he noted that “implementation of some of these measures will also require actions by national parliaments,” which he said should be made “without delay.”

Many European parliaments, however, are already preparing for their monthlong summer break. In Rome, for example, the summer break starts Thursday and the body will reconvene Sept. 12.

Italy has been at the center of the latest storm, with its bond yields pushing higher amid investor fears that its weak growth and high debt levels may bring a full-blown fiscal crisis.

The Italian economy minister, Giulio Tremonti, traveled to Luxembourg for discussions with Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup of finance ministers, according to Reuters. He also telephoned the European Union’s economic and monetary affairs commissioner, Olli Rehn, who said in a statement afterward that “the Italian authorities are doing what is necessary to put the country back on track for higher sustainable growth and ensanuring fiscal consolidation.”

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was to make a nationally televised address to Italy’s parliament later Wednesday. Analysts said it was unlikely that he would present substantial new measures, although Italian media reports suggested that Mr. Berlusconi might announce an intention to bring forward the target of balancing the budget, currently set for 2014.

The sense of movement appeared to bring some solace to the battered European bond markets. The Italian 10-year bond yield reversed an early gain and dropped 7 basis points to 6.06 percent as the difference in yield, or spread, between Italian 10-year bonds and similar-maturity German debt narrowed. The yield on 10-year Spanish bonds also swung back, falling 9 basis points to 6.19 percent.

There was some relief as well for Portugal, one of the more indebted euro area countries, which has already received an international bailout. It raised 750 million euros in an auction of Treasury bills, and its borrowing rate dropped to 4.967 percent, compared to a rate of 4.982 percent in a comparable auction held on July 20, The Associated Press reported.

The benchmark Euro Stoxx 50 Index was down 0.72 percent in early afternoon trading, paring some of the sharp early falls, and the DAX lost 1.7 percent in Frankfurt. Banks, again, led the declines and Société Générale, the large French lender, tumbled after reporting second-quarter results that missed estimates.

Bettina Wassener reported from Hong Kong. Christine Hauser contributed reporting from New York.

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