JPMorgan loss another headache for markets

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By PAN PYLAS, Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — Global markets fell on Friday after a big surprise trading loss at JPMorgan Chase shook investor confidence, while political chaos in Greece continued to cast uncertainty over its future in the euro currency bloc.

JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank, said Thursday that it lost $2 billion in the past six weeks in a trading portfolio designed to hedge against risks the company takes with its own money.

The company's stock plunged almost 7 percent in after-hours trading, and the unexpected loss at one of the world's most venerated banks undermined investor confidence. British banks were hit hard — Barclays, which has a large investment banking arm, was the biggest loser in London trading, down 2.9 percent by midmorning.

"This has permeated to the wider market as investors assess the possible systemic risk, adding another layer of caution to the fragile trading environment," said Jordan Lambert, a trader at Spreadex.

"When such shocks occur, it is wise to err on the side of caution and consider whether it is a possible 'tip of the iceberg' scenario, especially when one contemplates the interconnectedness of the banking system," he added.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares dropped 0.3 percent at 5,525 while Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent too to 6,498. The CAC-40 in France was 0.7 percent lower at 3,107.

The euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.2952, though still near four-month lows against the dollar.

Wall Street headed for a lower opening, with both Dow futures and S&P 500 futures down 0.5 percent.

Beyond JPMorgan's woes, investors in Europe remained focused on Greece, where another general election is expected for next month following the failure of attempts to forge a government since Sunday's poll.

The head of a small left-wing party and potential kingmaker in Greece's coalition negotiations said Friday he will not join forces with the conservatives and socialists to form a government.

Fotis Kouvelis, who leads the Democratic Left party, said he cannot join any coalition that does not include the election runner-up, the Radical Left Coalition. So far, that party leader Alexis Tsipras has refused to join any government that does not reject the austerity terms of Greece's international bailout.

The heads of the winning conservatives and third-placed socialists have warned that Tsipras' demands would force Greece out of the euro — which all parties say they do not want.

"What's worrying now, given that this rejection makes another election highly probable, is the latest polls being reported in Greece," said Derek Halpenny, an analyst at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

An opinion poll published late Thursday indicated that Tsipras' party would come first with nearly 28 percent of the vote in a new election — up from 16.8 percent — winning 128 seats. The Marc survey for private Alpha TV gave New Democracy 20.3 percent and 57 seats, and showed the extremist right-wing Golden Dawn declining to 5.7 percent, with 16 seats.

The May 8-9 nationwide survey was the first published after Sunday's vote. It gave no margin of error.

Earlier in Asia, shares as worries over Greece offset lower than anticipated Chinese inflation figures that indicate the country has more room to enact a monetary stimulus than thought. China's growth rate is faltering, down at 8.1 percent in the first quarter from the previous quarter's 8.9 percent.

China said its inflation rate fell to 3.4 percent in April from 3.6 percent the previous month, giving the government more room for possible stimulus measures. Chinese industrial production, however, was up 9.3 percent from a year earlier in April, slowing from a nearly 12 percent increase in March, raising concern that the world's second-biggest economy is continuing to weaken.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 0.6 percent to 8,953.31 and South Korea's Kospi lost 1.4 percent at 1,917.13. Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.3 percent to 19,966.17.

Oil prices tracked equities lower amid the growing global economic unease — benchmark oil for June delivery was down $1.02 cents at $96.07 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

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Alex Kennedy in Singapore contributed to this report.

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