Global stock markets were mixed on Monday, with cautious investors tracking Italian and Greek political developments as the eurozone debt crisis rumbled into Spain, whose borrowing costs rose sharply.
A day after economist Mario Monti was picked to replace Silvio Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister, the country ended up paying higher rates in a bond sale compared to before the start of a political crisis.
At the same time, Spanish borrowing costs soared to well above 6.0 percent, a sign of stress as the markets demand more in return for their money, sparking concerns that Madrid could be next in the eurozone debt firing line.
Spain could be more vulnerable because of upcoming elections but at the same time, the polls point to a victory for the right, ousting the socialist government.
Dealers said that after some limited respite with the formation of new governments in Greece and in Italy, markets were deciding that they prefer the safety of German bonds than to take on any new risk.
"Markets gave a cautious initial welcome to the news that Mario Monti will head a new technocrat Italian government," said Rabobank analyst Jane Foley.
"Italy and the eurozone are still faced with an uphill battle to win back credibility."
In London mid-afternoon trade, the benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies was down 0.35 percent, Frankfurt's DAX 30 lost 0.80 percent and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 1.71 percent.
Milan was down 1.54 percent and Madrid fell 1.82 percent.
The euro meanwhile fell sharply to $1.3625 from $1.3739 in New York late Friday while the dollar slipped to 77.02 yen from 77.12 yen.
Gold climbed to $1,786.30 an ounce from $1,773.
In both Italy and Greece, new governments were trying to make headway Monday in tackling their debt crises, even as attention turned to Spain, seen as the next mostly likely eurozone country to be tested by the markets.
"Investors are thinking these political developments (in Greece and Italy) will help Europe find a way out of its debt crisis," said Peter Copeland, senior institutional trader with Sydney-based brokerage BBY.
"(But) a lot of people will see these developments as just kicking the can down the road."
Monti was nominated on Sunday to replace Silvio Berlusconi as prime minister and he pledged to get to work on tackling a crippling debt crisis in the country, the eurozone's third-biggest economy.
"Italy must again be and must increasingly be an element of strength, not weakness in a European Union that we helped found and in which we should be protagonists," Monti said after his nomination.
Italy's Treasury on Monday raised the 3.0 billion euros ($4.1 billion) that it had expected to bring in with the five-year bond auction but it had to pay rates of 6.29 percent, up sharply from 5.32 percent at the last sale in October.
"As an economist Monti is the right man for the times without doubt," said Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners.
"I suspect that markets in Europe will be prepared to forgive that this was the same man who carried a deal of responsibility for allowing Greece to join the euro in the first place," he noted.
The German and French leaders have meanwhile said that Athens has to ratify a bailout deal agreed at an EU summit last month before Greece can receive the eight-billion-euros loan instalment to avert default.
In New York, investors were wary too, once more looking anxiously to developments in Europe as the eurozone debt crisis showed no sign of being resolved despite the political changes in Rome and Athens.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was flat at around 1500 GMT while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.13 percent.
In Asian trade earlier Monday, investors welcomed the apparent progress in the eurozone debt crisis. Tokyo ended 1.05 percent higher, Sydney gained 0.19 percent, Hong Kong was up 1.94 percent and Shanghai rose 1.92 percent.