Greek jitters hit European equities, Athens’ shares fall sharply

Greek shares tumbled on Monday, helping drag down European share indexes, after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras laid out plans to reverse austerity measures imposed on his country and vowed not to extend its current bailout deal.

In his first major speech to parliament, Tsipras on Sunday set himself on a collision course with his European partners and rattled off a list of moves to reverse reforms.

His defiant speech came after Standard & Poor’s on Friday cut Greece’s sovereign debt rating and Moody’s put its rating on review for downgrade, adding to the pressure on Athens to reach an agreement with its international lenders.

“The discussions between Greece and its European peers look like they will intensify this week. The comments by the Greek government over the weekend do not give us the impression that the two sides are getting any closer,» Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets in Brussels, said.

Greece’s ATG share index slipped 5.2 percent, while the Greek banking index was down 9.1 percent. National Bank of Greece, Alpha Bank and Bank of Piraeus fell 7.3 to 10.3 percent.

There was little sign that EU capitals were willing to accept a reversal of Greek austerity measures or to extend loans that would buy time to negotiate with Athens. Instead the country is under increasing pressure to stick to the commitments attached to the 240 billion euros worth of EU/IMF loans.

“Chances appear rather slim for a compromise, which heightens the risk of a possible Greek default and exit out of the euro in just a few months from now,» said Markus Huber, senior analyst at Peregrine & Black.

He said the situation in east Ukraine was also taking more of a toll on investor sentiment, suggesting the effect of the European Central Bank’s stimulus announced in January was wearing off.

“If this situation where a risk-off approach by investors is favoured drags on, markets are running the risk that the recent positive sentiment derived from the QE announcement will fade more and more into the background,» he said.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 1.3 percent at 1,471.20 points by 0911 GMT, while the euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 fell 1.6 percent.

Investors were also cautious in trading equities after data on Sunday showed China’s trade performance slumped in January, with exports falling 3.3 percent from year-ago levels and imports slipping 19.9 percent, far worse than analysts had expected.

The European automobile and auto parts index fell 2.6 percent, the top sectoral decliner, following JPMorgan’s downgrade on the sector.