Greece Shaken by Anti-Austerity Riots; Debt Fears Escalate

June 15, 2011

Editor's Note: Today's turmoil in Greece is continuing to roil the financial markets. The slide in the equity and energy markets today show the major impact that the Eurozone worries are having on investors. 

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LONDON (MarketWatch) — Worries over Greece’s fiscal crisis escalated Wednesday as thousands of citizens joined a 24-hour general strike to protest against the latest austerity measures out of Athens, while media reports said the prime minister may step down.

The developments unnerved investors and the benchmark Greek stock index GR:GD -1.88%   dropped 1.9% at 1,243.05. It earlier fell to an intraday low of 1,212.95.

The euro also slumped, dropping 1.6% to $1.4198 in late European trade.

Prime Minister George Papandreou has indicated to other party leaders he was willing to consider resigning if an agreement can be reached on forming a national unity government, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing an unnamed senior Socialist party official.

One condition is that parliament back new austerity measures that are sought by international lenders, the Journal wrote.

As politicians discussed what to do, thousands of Greeks walked off the job Wednesday to join a general strike, the third so far this year organized to protest the government’s latest austerity package of 28 billion euros.

Demonstrations in Athens turned violent, with anarchists hurling various objects and the police responding by firing tear gas and stun grenades, according to the Journal.

Meanwhile, European officials meeting in Brussels Tuesday failed to agree on the shape of a second aid package for Greece. There are sharp divisions between the European Central Bank and Germany in particular over the potential role of the private sector in a new bailout, with the ECB opposing any move that could be perceived as default.

The Financial Times, citing a briefing paper by the European Commission, reported late Tuesday that a German plan to reschedule Greek debt could cost an additional 20 billion euros, or $28.6 billion. The money may be necessary to recapitalize Greek banks if the maturities on Greek government bonds are extended, the FT said.

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