LONDON (Reuters) - European shares and the euro eased on Tuesday as finance chiefs from the world’s major nations pushed Europe for faster action on its growing debt crisis and Spain said the euro zone’s fourth biggest economy was being shut out of credit markets.
The single currency, which early in the day hit a one-week high of $1.2543, fell 0.5 percent to $1.2440 when Spain’s Treasury Minister signaled his concern over high borrowing costs just two days before a planned debt auction.
Commodities like oil followed the euro lower, but gold gained on a view that the worsening economic outlook may prompt further easing measures from the world’s major central banks. U.S. stock index futures indicated Wall Street may open higher .N.
Spain’s funding problems, and the threat they hold for the rest of the world, will be discussed in a teleconference by finance ministers and central bankers from the United States, Canada, Japan, Britain, Germany, France and Italy (the G7), which began at 1100 GMT on Tuesday.
“The G7 is going to put a lot of pressure on Europe to accelerate the treatment of the banking crisis, which means to increase the pressure on the Spanish Government,” said Eric Chaney, Chief Economist for the AXA Group.
“I think the Spanish Government, even though it will not attend this meeting, will hear a lot coming from the G7, and the message would be very simple: You need to borrow money from the European (bailout) fund. Please do it,” he said.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Europe needed to find a solution to the Spanish banking crisis that did not add to Madrid’s already heavy budget deficit, reiterating Paris’s support for one proposal to help solve the current crisis - a full European banking union.
The intensification of the euro zone crisis coupled with weaker-than-expected data from the U.S. and China has been putting downward pressure on the prices for most riskier assets.
The depths of the problems facing the euro zone were highlighted in a batch of fresh business surveys, retail sales data and numbers on German industrial production, which all showed economic conditions across the region steadily worsening.
Retail sales in the 17-member currency bloc fell more than expected in April as rising unemployment crimped consumer spending, while German industrial orders for the same month posted their steepest fall since November 2011.
A survey of thousands of companies across the region also found the euro area’s private economy shrank in May at the fastest pace since 2009.
“Companies report business activity to have been hit by heightened political and economic uncertainty, which has exacerbated already weak demand both in the euro area and further afield,” said Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, which compiled the survey data.
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Euro zone crisis in graphics: r.reuters.com/hyb65p
In European equity markets, where share indexes over the past week have been beaten down to 2012 lows, price falls were muted on Tuesday as UK markets remain closed for a holiday.
The euro zone’s blue-chip Euro STOXX 50 .STOXX50E index was down 0.1 percent at 2076 points by the midsession, and is in sight of the eight-month low of 2,050.16 set last week.
“We are in a political environment where the debt crisis, the Greek situation, is pushing down the market,” said Oliver Roth, head trader at Close Brothers Seydler.
But earlier the news that the G7 would hold talks on Europe lifted MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS by 1.2 percent, snapping a four-day losing streak, leaving the MSCI world equity index .MIWD00000PUS up 0.3 percent at 291.67 points.
In commodity markets the crisis in Europe and comments by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that oil prices were still a threat to the global economy, pushed Brent crude prices below $98 a barrel, after they briefly hit a 16-month low of $95.63 on Monday.
But the rising hopes that the gloomier economic outlook could prompt the European Central Bank (ECB) and the Federal Reserve to announce some stimulus measures soon lifted gold.
Australia’s central bank cut interest rates for a second month running, which fuelled the talk, though its commodity-linked currency showed little lasting reaction because the decision was largely expected.
The gold price posted its biggest one-day rise in more than three years on Friday after weak U.S. jobs data fuelled the speculation about a new wave of monetary easing, and it has since held on to most of its gains despite a weaker euro.
Additional reporting by Toni Vorobyova; Editing by Will Waterman