European shares were headed for another day of losses on Friday, ending a dismal week in which the euro zone debt crisis dragged equity markets to new 2012 lows.
The UK’s FTSE was expected to open 70 points lower at 5253, Germany’s DAX 75 points lower at 6234 and France’s CAC was called down 36 points at 2975.
One bit of comfort on Friday was an opinion poll which showed Greek voters returning to the established political parties who negotiated the country’s international bailout in the first place, presenting the possibility that Greece may stay within the single currency bloc after all.
However, the poll came on the same day that ratings agency Fitch cut Greece’s credit ratingto CCC from B- on fears it could leave the euro zone.
Adding to the sense of confusion, Alexis Tsipras, the 37-year-old head of the Coalition of the Radical Left in Greece, known as Syriza, said he believed there was little chance Europe would cut off funding the country for fear of bringing down the entire single currency.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said Europe would have to consider a more growth-oriented policy in order to arrest Greece's spiraling recession and address what he called a growing "humanitarian crisis" facing the country.
If it does not and he were to win June’s elections, it was likely that as prime minister he would renege on Greece’s debt, he added.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in a "high level of agreement" with French President Francois Hollande, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti that both fiscal consolidation and growth are needed, her spokesman said late on Thursday.
That statement followed a conference call of the European leaders aimed at finding agreement on how to manage the euro zone crisis.
Meanwhile, Cameron will tell leaders of some of the world's biggest economies on Friday that they must work together to stop the economic crisis afflicting the euro zone from spreading worldwide.
Greece was not the only country in the euro zone grabbing the attention of investors after Moody's Investors Service downgraded 16 Spanish banksas well as Santander UK, the British-domiciled subsidiary of Banco Santander SA, in the latest blow for a country already facing economic recession, surging unemployment and a five-year property bust.
A senior Spanish government source said Bankia SAwill present a restructuring plan next week, Reuters reported Thursday.
The source said Bankia's parent company, Banco Financiero y de Ahorros, may need additional provisions to cover future losses on real estate assets.
Spain's central government also approved plans to drastically cut the spending of its indebted regions this year and said it would introduce by July a new mechanism to back their financing In Asia, shares fell steeply on Friday after more signs emerged of growing instability among Spanish banks and political turmoil in Greece, with the latest sluggish economic data from the United States adding to the list of risks for investors.
The euro zone debt crisis could be overshadowed by the launch of America’s third largest initial public offering later on Friday, however, as Facebook lists on the U.S. stock market.
The world’s largest social networking website is expected to raise up to $18.4 billion in its IPO and become the first U.S. company to be worth more than $100 billion at its debut, as investors bet on a big pop in the stock when it begins trading on the Nasdaq on Friday.