A record 4.75 million Spaniards were unemployed in March, with the service sectors shedding the most jobs. In February, the Spanish unemployment rate stood at 23.6%, the highest in the European Union.
While the government is implementing measures designed to cut unemployment — including reducing severance pay and inflation-based pay increases — the moves have angered unions, which organized a general strike last Thursday.
Markets across Europe were mostly down as investors worry about Spain’s ability to tackle its deficit woes in the face of sustained and increasing unemployment.
Spanish stocks (EWP, quote) led the way with a 1.36% loss. By early afternoon today, London’s FTSE had fallen 0.28%, the German DAX had slipped 0.29% and the French CAC 40 had depreciated 0.71%. The euro fell 0.11% to $1.3306, while the British pound depreciated 0.19% to $1.599.
Overnight in Seoul, the KOSPI (EWY, quote) climbed 0.99% amid renewed optimism in the Asian technology sector. Samsung, the world’s largest memory chip manufacturer, announced it would invest $7 billion to build its first chip factory in China. The chips will help satisfy Chinese domestic demand as well as global orders for smart phones, tablets and MP3 players. Shares of Samsung jumped 2.77% while rival LG slumped 1.90%.
Tokyo’s Nikkei (EWJ, quote) took a hit of 0.59%. Beleaguered camera and medical equipment manufacturer Olympus has named Akihiro Nambu, previously the company’s investor relations chief, as its top financial officer. The decision comes just months after some of Olympus’ most prominent shareholders urged for him and other executives to be fired over their role in a $1.7 billion accounting scandal. Olympus stock rose 0.08%.
The Chinese yuan slipped 0.01% to 6.2975 to the dollar, while the Japanese yen appreciated 0.11% to 82.14 against the greenback.