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Europe's stocks in free fall after Wall Street tanks

Europe, Sat, 11 Oct 2008 IANS

Frankfurt, Oct 10 (DPA) European shares plummetted Friday as investors dumped shares on Wall Street amid fears the credit squeeze could trigger a prolonged global recession.


With New York's losses quickly gaining momentum following its opening Friday, Europe's benchmark blue-chip Stoxx 50 index plunged by 10 percent to 2066 points.



The panic selling snowballed across Europe with shares in Frankfurt and Paris spiralling down by about 12 percent following Wall Street's opening.



After a horror week on world bourses, the markets' focus is now on this weekend's meeting in Washington of Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers and central bankers to help shore investor confidence through coordinated action aimed at freeing credit markets.



'We are going through a systemic shock in which risk propagates itself through the entire financial system like a virus,' said Benoit Debroissia, market analyst at Richelieu Finance in Paris.



Amid fears of a stock market crash, stock exchange authorities in Moscow announced that they were delaying the opening of trading.



'Russia risk is a fringe luxury that most global investors will avoid for now,' wrote Chris Weafer, chief strategist at UralSib in a note to investors.



Meanwhile, the Vienna Stock Market temporarily suspended trading shortly after opening Friday in the wake of a 10 percent fall in shares.



The Bucharest Stock Exchange also halted regular trading Friday for the second time this week as the massive global sell-off hit eastern Europe's fastest-growing economy.



Indeed, the selloff also swept across Central European bourses, with the Prague Stock Exchange's main PX Index down 10.3 percent in late morning trading, after plummeting by more than 13 percent in opening trading.



Banking and financial stocks were among the biggest losers across Europe, with Britain's biggest mortgage lender HBOS dropping by more than 20 percent in early trade. This came just two days after the British government announced a major bail-out package.



Europe's biggest insurer, Allianz, at one point lost more than 13 percent.



The steep share falls across Europe came in the wake of mass selling in Asia with Japanese stocks dropping below the psychologically important 9,000-point mark for the first time in more than five years with the Nikkei finishing the week down 24.33 percent.



The Bank of Japan also injected a record 4.5 trillion yen ($44.8 billion) into the money markets Friday in a fresh bid to shore up confidence in the financial system.



The deepening sense of concern about the economic outlook drove up the price of gold, a traditional investment safe haven, by 3.4 percent in midday European trading and sent the oil price down by almost 5 percent to $82.42.


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