HONG KONG: Asian markets tumbled and the euro hit a more than three-month low Monday after voters in France and Greece booted out ruling parties in a backlash against austerity measures aimed at battling the eurozone crisis.
Adding to the bearish atmosphere was weak jobs data out of the United States last week, which fuelled concerns about recovery in the world's biggest economy and sent Wall Street sliding.
Tokyo tumbled 2.62 per cent by the break, Hong Kong slumped 2.45 per cent, Sydney fell 1.51 per cent, Seoul shed 1.70 per cent, Wellington was 0.40 per cent lower and Shanghai lost 0.41 per cent.
France's Nicolas Sarkozy was on Sunday dumped out by Socialist Francois Hollande, who had campaigned on a platform of boosting growth instead of introducing huge spending cuts to overcome the country's huge deficit.
Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had led the drive for strident budget cuts across Europe as the only way to drag the region out of a crisis that has raised concerns that the eurozone project could collapse.
“The Hollande win in France is not necessarily a surprise. However it brings home the reality that incumbents following the (European Union's) prescribed austerity measures are going to find it difficult to remain elected,” National Australia Bank said in a note.
“What happens to these austerity measures now are what are weighing on (the euro),” the bank said.
The euro skidded to $1.2954 in early trade Monday, its lowest level since late January, while also slumping to 103.22 yen at one stage.
In late morning trade it was buying $1.2973 and 103.58 yen, still well down from $1.3082 and 104.50 yen late Friday in New York.
In Greece the two main parties -- the conservative New Democracy and the left-wing Pasok -- suffered huge defeats, with those opposed to more cuts winning almost 60.0 per cent support in a general election.
The losses follow months of protests against austerity measures across the country after the government was forced to ask for two bail-outs.
However, while New Democracy, led by Antonis Samaras, remained the largest party it fell short of an absolute majority, raising the possibility of fresh elections soon.
Also Sunday, Merkel's Christian Democrats grabbed only about 30.0 per cent of the vote in polls for the small state of Schleswig-Holstein, a setback ahead of national elections in 2013.
“With the growing influence of anti-austerity political blocs, tensions among the eurozone will likely be intensified and a wave of renegotiations for bail-out programmes may be sparked,” Kintai Cheung, analyst at Credit Agricole, said in a note.
Sentiment had already been low over the eurozone after figures Thursday showed private-sector activity fell sharply in April, with even powerhouse Germany grinding to a halt.
The Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) compiled by London-based research firm Markit fell to 46.7 points in April, well below an initial 47.4 estimate.
Anything below 50 is considered contraction.
Global economic anxiety was already high after Washington Friday released figures showing the US economy created only 115,000 jobs last month, which was below market expectations and less than half that at the start of the year.
The report also suggested tens of thousands of Americans had dropped out of the job market, a bad sign for household incomes.
The news burnt Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.27 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 1.61 per cent and the Nasdaq plunged 2.25 per cent.
The jobs data combined with a disappointing report Thursday on consumer spending from department stores to tip sentiment against the market.
Oil prices were also hit, amid concerns over falling demand. New York's main contract, West Texas Intermediate crude for delivery in June was down $2.20 to $96.29 per barrel while Brent North Sea crude for June shed $1.83 to $111.35.
Gold was at $1,637.12 an ounce at 0230 GMT, compared with $1,630.60 late Friday.