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World shares tumble again on French jitters

New York, August 10, 2011

Global stocks slumped again on Wednesday as the appetite for risk evaporated, with worries about Europe's debt problems coming to the fore in the face of rumours about possible trouble at French banks and continuing fear of another recession.

Wall Street stocks fell sharply, erasing most of the previous day's gains. US financial stocks led the decline on worries any French bank problems could spread to them. The KBW bank index slid 7 percent. Large financial institutions fell sharply, including Bank of America Corp down 11.2 percent to $6.76.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 422.73 points, or 3.76 percent, to 10,817.04. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index slumped 42.30 points, or 3.61 percent, to 1,130.23. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 83.13 points, or 3.35 percent, to 2,399.39.   

French banks led European markets lower as Societe Generale plummeted nearly 20 percent and BNP Paribas dived almost 13 percent. The European banking index fared somewhat better, down 6.6 percent.

A Societe Generale spokeswoman denied all market rumours about the bank. 

'France owns $350 billion worth of Italy's debt on their banks' books,' Dave Rovelli managing director of US equity trading at Canaccord Adams, who said fears of a failure in the sector was hitting US markets.

London stocks plunged 3.05 per cent, Frankfurt by 5.13 per cent and Paris by 5.45 per cent.

Speculation France's AAA rating may be at risk rattled markets, though the three major agencies reaffirmed the top-tier rating. The jitters come after the US lost its prized AAA status last week.

The turnaround in equities followed a morning of gains in Europe and Asia that were prompted by the US Federal Reserve's dovish promise on Tuesday that it would keep interest rates low for another two years.

The Fed's unprecedented commitment was double-edged. It sent the message to markets that the Fed is willing to keep things afloat, but it also acknowledges how much the US economy has weakened.

'At this point of time, investors' heads are spinning,' said Oliver Pursche, president at Gary Goldberg Financial Services in Suffern, New York.

'We anticipate further volatility,' he said. 'I even think we are going to retest the lows that were set on Monday.'

The MSCI all-country world index, which has fallen as much as 20 percent from a May high, was down 2.4 percent after earlier gains.   

The euro last traded down 0.9 percent at $1.4235, after sliding to a session low of $1.42080 on trading platform EBS. It also lost 1.8 percent to 108.83 yen.

Switzerland's central bank, meanwhile, said it was expanding measures to fight against the Swiss franc's strength. Investors have been pouring into the currency as a safe haven during recent market and economic weakness. - Reuters




Tags: stocks | world | SocGen | French banks |

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