Irish debt concerns knock shares

Protesters outside government buildings in DublinPlanned austerity measures have proved unpopular with the Irish people

Asian shares have fallen sharply on fears that the Irish Republic’s debt crisis could spread to other European countries with high budget deficits.

All major stock indexes in the region fell, with China’s Shanghai Composite down 2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 1.8% lower.

Investors are particularly concerned about high debt levels in Portugal and Spain.

Over the weekend, the Irish asked for 90bn euros (£77bn; $124bn) of loans.

The money will come from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and will be used to help reduce the government’s budget deficit to a target of 3% of GDP by 2014.

The Irish government will also publish a four-year budget plan on Wednesday, which will provide some detail of spending cuts and tax rises amounting to 15bn euro, including 6bn euros next year.

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