Markets slide further on eurozone fears

Share prices in the US and Asia have slipped further on anxiety at the continuing eurozone debt crisis.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index closed down 1.2%, while South Korea's Kospi fell 2%, following a sell-off on Wall Street overnight.

On Thursday, Spain's borrowing cost at an auction of 10-year bonds was almost 7% - a level seen as unsustainable.

Markets await details of how the size of the eurozone bailout fund will be boosted to 1tn euros (£855bn; $1.3tn).

There are fears that European leaders may be unable to agree a specific way to boost the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), although they have agreed in principle for the need to do this.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng fell 1.8% and Australia's ASX 200 shed 1.5%, following a 1.1% fall in the Dow Jones on Thursday.

Financial and technology stocks were among the hardest hit, with the technology-heavy Nasdaq exchange dropping almost 2%.

US markets were spooked by an apparent failure of a special congressional budget committee to reach a bipartisan deal on tax rises and cuts to entitlement programmes.

However, their main concern was the situation in the eurozone, where money markets are showing signs of stress similar to that seen during the global financial crisis of late 2008, suggesting that European banks may be finding it hard to raise cash.

A general aversion to risk infected most financial markets overnight. The price of Brent crude oil fell almost 4%.

Crisis jargon buster
Use the dropdown for easy-to-understand explanations of key financial terms:
The best credit rating that can be given to a borrower's debts, indicating that the risk of borrowing defaulting is minuscule.

ECB role

Earlier in the week, the head of the Bundesbank - Germany's central bank, which is officially subordinate to the European Central Bank - openly opposed the ECB coming to the rescue of troubled Italy and Spain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced that stance on Thursday: "If politicians think the ECB can solve the euro crisis, then they are mistaken".

Many analysts believe that, to stem contagion in the eurozone, the ECB should act as "lender of last resort" and commit to buy up unlimited amounts of Italian and Spanish debt, instead of the limited interventions it has been carrying out so far.

France, whose AAA credit rating has come under threat, has called for the ECB to take stronger action.

The spread between French and German 10-year bond yields widened on Thursday to more than two percentage points - the widest since the euro was created in 1999 - amid fears that France will be the next eurozone country to face a debt crisis.

Italy's 10-year borrowing cost fell slightly below 7% on Thursday, but it is thought this was due to the ECB buying up some Italian debts.

New Prime Minister Mario Monti won a confidence vote on Thursday night as he outlined austerity measures aimed at restoring confidence in the country's economy.

Meanwhile, a report by the European Commission's taskforce in Greece said that the country had 60bn euros ($81bn; £51bn) in unpaid taxes - equivalent to 25% of the country's gross domestic product - because of tax avoidance and lack of compliance.