Bank shares crashed on the Athens stock exchange today, losing a fifth of their value within hours, as the government was seen facing an impossible choice between austerity and social unrest.

The FTSEB index of financial stocks dropped nearly 20% in morning business, pulling the overall market index down by more than 6%.

The leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras last week wrapped the first phase of a fiscal review by its EU-IMF international creditors, with no agreement in sight on a controversial pension reform that has caused a social backlash against Tsipras’ fragile coalition.

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