May 7, 2012 / 12:01 AM / 5 years ago

Euro tanks in Asia after Greek vote upsets

<p>A bank clerk counts U.S. dollar banknotes on bundles of 100 Chinese yuan banknotes at a branch of a bank in Huaibei, Anhui province April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer</p>

TOKYO (Reuters) - The euro tanked in early Asian trade on Monday, breaking below its well-worn range from the past three months, after elections in Greece and France fuelled concerns on whether struggling euro zone economies could continue to pursue austerity measures crucial to resolving the bloc’s debt crisis.

Greek voters punished pro-bailout ruling parties, throwing the future of the bailout scheme for the country into doubt. While vote-counting is still going on, the conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK, who have dominated Greece for decades, might only scrape the 151-seat threshold needed for even the most fragile majority in parliament.

“The PASOK did unexpectedly poorly in the election ... Until we have more clarity on how the coalition government will be formed and what the new government will do with the bailout scheme, the euro will stay under pressure,” said Masafumi Yamamoto, chief FX strategist at Barclays.

The euro fell as far as $1.29552, its lowest since January 25, having broken below the rough $1.30-$1.35 trading band it had been stuck in since February. The euro last traded at $1.2978, down 0.8 percent from late U.S. levels last Friday.

For now, the euro has support at around $1.2950, a major option barrier and the 61.3 percent retracement of its rally from its January low to a high in February, though uncertainty on Greece could overwhelm this.

Another source of uncertainty comes from France, where socialist Francois Hollande swept to victory, ousting incumbent president Nicolas Sarkozy.

While that outcome had been widely expected, some market players think Hollande’s focus on growth measures to temper austerity could put Paris on course to clash with Germany, the euro zone paymaster.

The euro also fell to 103.24 yen, its lowest level since mid-February and to 80.48 pence, a trough last seen in November 2008.

Concerns about the debt crisis in the euro zone coupled with Friday’s disappointing U.S. job data, led traders to cut exposure to risky assets, including the Australian dollar.

The Aussie fell 0.6 percent to $1.0120, hitting a five-month low of $1.0118.

The Japanese yen, traditionally a safe-haven currency, gained against the dollar, which slipped 0.15 percent to 79.78 yen.

Reporting by Hideyuki Sano; Editing by Joseph Radford

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