European stocks fell, as the benchmark Stoxx Europe 600 Index extended its biggest retreat in four weeks, after Spain's borrowing costs rose, renewing concern that the Euro-area has yet to contain its debt crisis. US index futures fell, while Asian shares were little changed.A gauge of banks posted its biggest three-day decline since January. The largest lenders in Spain, Italy, France and the UK contributed the most to the retreat by the Stoxx 600 Banks Index. UniCredit SpA, Italy's biggest bank, fell 4.3 per cent.
The Stoxx 600 slid 0.5 per cent to 257.55 at 12.22pm in London, the gauge's third day of declines. The benchmark measure is headed for a retreat of 2.2 per cent this week, its third week of losses. Markets are closed today for Easter. Standard & Poor's 500 Index futures expiring in June slipped 0.4 per cent Thursday, while the MSCI Asia Pacific Index decreased 0.1 per cent.
"The euro crisis is still the greatest concern," said Thomas Tilse, head of global portfolio strategy at Allianz Global Investors in Frankfurt.
"The question, and what will be the answer to all this, is: will we be able to buy enough time to consolidate the budgets across Europe? Everything we have seen is all about buying time."
European stocks tumbled 2.1 per cent yesterday, their biggest slide since March 6, after Spain sold fewer bonds than its maximum target at an auction and the Federal Reserve damped expectations for further monetary stimulus for the United States. Spain's borrowing costs climbed as the yield on the country's ten-year bonds gained 13 basis points to 5.82 per cent. The yield difference, or spread, between Spanish ten-year securities and similar-maturity German bunds rose to more than 400 basis points, or 4 percentage points, for the first time since December 12.
Spain is in "extreme difficulty," Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said yesterday, raising the likelihood of a bailout for the second time this week. The government has widened its budget deficit target to 5.3 per cent of gross domestic product from 4.4 per cent and warned public debt will surge to a record 79.8 per cent of GDP this year.