Stocks in Europe and Asia plunged on Monday, while Wall Street posted a last-minute rally on a volatile day in which headlines about the eurozone's debt crisis rattled markets.The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.63 percent, while the broader S&P 500 climbed 0.70 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.10 percent, rebounding from steep initial losses.Earlier in Europe, London's FTSE-100 dropped 1.63 percent, while Frankfurt's DAX slid 2.27 percent and Paris' CAC 40 plummeted 4.03 percent amid a steep sell-off in French banking stocks.Shares in French lenders such as Societe Generale fell as much as 10 percent during the day on concerns that the Moody's ratings agency might downgrade them because of the amount of Greek debt bonds they hold.The euro was also shaken by the sell-off, at one point dropping to $1.3495, its lowest level against the dollar since February, and to 103.90 yen, its lowest level against Japan's currency since 2001.In Asia, the Tokyo stock market tumbled 2.31 percent to strike its lowest close in 29 months.The surge in US stocks, which came in the last minutes of trading on Wall Street, was triggered by a report in the Financial Times that China was in talks to buy Italian government bonds, some analysts said.
"There was a story... that the Chinese were talking to Italy about buying a bunch of their bonds. That's why you saw a late run-up in stocks and the euro," said David Solin, an analyst with Foreign Exchange Analytics.Other analysts pointed to optimism that stocks might be oversold and that fears of a global economic slowdown could be overblown."There are ongoing worries about the global economy, there are ongoing worries about Greece and the eurozone, there are ongoing worries about US fiscal policy," said Hugh Johnson, of Hugh Johnson Advisors."They are not behind us, but the key question that investors are trying to answer is: is it just a slowdown in the economy or something more serious? And they are slowly coming to the conclusion it may only be a slowdown."Developments in the eurozone's debt crisis spooked investors, including a warning from Germany's economy minister on Monday that Europe could not rule out an "orderly default" by Greece.
In Greece itself, protestors challenged unpopular austerity measures over the weekend, while the government announced plans for two billion euros ($2.7 billion) in budget cuts.
"The political theatre playing out in Europe continues to drive investors towards the exits with policymakers adopting an increasingly tough line with respect to Greece as bailout fatigue in northern Europe starts to manifest itself alongside austerity fatigue in southern Europe," Michael Hewson of CMC Markets in London said.
On the forex market, the euro bounced back from its lows of the day to stand at $1.3680 against the dollar at 2100 GMT, compared to $1.3649 at the same time on Friday.
Europe's common currency made a similar comeback against the yen, trading for 105.56 yen late on Monday, compared to 105.91 on Friday.
The dollar fell to 77.15 yen from 77.58 on Friday.The greenback also weakened against the Swiss franc, falling to 0.8800 francs from 0.8836 on Friday.Against the British pound, the dollar stood at $1.5862 on Monday, compared to $1.5847 late on Friday.