In this image taken Saturday, March 16, 2013, people queue to use an ATM machine outside of Bank of Cyprus branch in southern port city of Limassol, Saturday, March 16, 2013. Many rushed to cooperative banks which are open Saturdays in Cyprus after learning that the terms of a bailout deal that the cash-strapped country hammered out with international lenders includes a one-time levy on bank deposits. The move, decided in an extraordinary meeting of the finance ministers of the 17-nation eurozone in the early hours Saturday, is a major departure from established policies. Analysts have warned that making depositors take a hit threatens to undermine investors’ confidence in other weaker eurozone economies and might possibly lead to bank runs. (AP Photo/Pavlos Vrionides)
LONDON (AP) — European stocks slumped at the open Monday as investors gave their initial verdict to a weekend plan to tax depositors in Cypriot banks as part of a bailout of the Mediterranean island nation.
Though Cyprus only accounts for around 0.2 percent of the combined output of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro, the tax on depositors has stoked fears of bank runs in other troubled European economies.
Since the European debt crisis began in late 2009, savers have been spared. The bailout of Cyprus, agreed to early Saturday, foresees a 6.75 percent levy on deposits below €100,000 ($130,860) rising to 9.9 percent on those above.
People in Cyprus have reacted with fury to the news and the country’s new president is apparently working out a new plan to be put to Parliament that will limit the hit on small depositors. Parliament is due to vote on the bailout later. If it backs the levy, then Cyprus would be eligible for a €10 billion financial rescue from its partners in the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.
The reaction in the markets has been largely negative too, and stocks around the world have taken a dive, along with the euro.
“If European policymakers were looking for a way to undermine the public trust that underpins the foundation of any banking system they could not have done a better job,” said Michael Hewson, senior market analyst at CMC Markets.
In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 1.2 percent at 6,413 while Germany’s DAX fell 1.4 percent to 7,931. The CAC-40 in France was 1.8 percent lower at 7,932. Cyprus’ stock exchange is closed for a bank holiday.
The euro was taking a pounding too, down 0.8 percent at $1.2944.
In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index slid 2.7 percent to 12,220.63, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 2 percent to 22,082.83.
Wall Street was headed for a retreat at the open too, with Dow futures down 0.7 percent and the broader S&P 500 futures 1.2 percent lower.
Oil prices were under pressure, with the benchmark New York rate $1.21 lower at $92.24 a barrel.