Thursday, June 21, 2018

Greek riots, Spanish marches shatter market calm

ATHENS, Greece — Europe's fragile financial calm was shattered Wednesday as investors worried that violent anti-austerity protests in Greece and Spain's debt troubles showed that the continent still cannot contain its financial crisis.

Police fired tear gas at rioters hurling gasoline bombs and chunks of marble during Greece's largest anti-austerity demonstration in six months. The protests were part of a 24-hour general strike, the latest test for Greece's nearly 4-month-old coalition government and the new spending cuts it plans to push through.

The brief but intense clashes by several hundred rioters among the 60,000 people protesting in Athens came a day after anti-austerity protests rocked the Spanish capital.

In Madrid, thousands of angry protesters again swarmed as close as they could get Wednesday night to Parliament, watched by a heavy contingent of riot police. There was no fresh violence, but the demonstrators cut off traffic on one of the city's major thoroughfares at the height of the evening commute.

The protesters chanted for the release of 34 people detained Tuesday night in clashes that injured 64 others. They also demanded new elections to oust Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his conservative government, which has imposed cutbacks and tax hikes, deepening the gloom in a country struggling with recession and unemployment of nearly 25 percent, the highest among the 17 nations using the euro currency.

Spain's central bank warned Wednesday the country's economy continues to shrink "significantly," sending the Spanish stock index tumbling and its borrowing costs rising.

The turmoil Wednesday ended weeks of relative calm and optimism among investors that Europe and eurozone might have turned a corner.

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