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LONDON -- Just how low can European stock markets go? "Even further" is the answer each week, as six-month lows were hit across the continent by Friday.
We may now see the U.K.'s FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE ) breaking the 5,000 barrier on the way down, not the 6,000 level heading up that the optimists were thinking about so very recently. Ending the previous Friday on 5,352, the FTSE has fallen a relatively modest 1.7% to end on 5,260 this week
It's worse everywhere else
The German DAX (INDEX: ^GDAXI ) dropped by a massive 4.6% to end the week at 6,050, and in Paris the CAC 40 shed another 3.2% to 2,950.
Spain, still in the grip of an unfolding banking crisis, saw a huge 7.3% lopped off its IBEX 35 (INDEX: ^IBEX ) to finish at 6,065, hitting a nine-year low. And the Italian FTSE MIB (INDEX: FTSEMIB.MI ) continued its long slide, dropping 4.3% to 12,740.
The Athens General Index (INDEX: GD.AT ) ? Well, in a shock move, it gained this week! It ended up 3.5% at 502. Perhaps the Greeks are buoyed by the prospect of escaping from the shackles of the euro, devaluing, and instantly increasing their competitiveness.
We did see some U.K. stocks beating the gloomy trend, with Intercontinental Hotels putting on 6% to 1,410 pence on reports of a possible tie-in with the U.S. Marriott chain on Thursday.
A couple of dividend-paying utility suppliers put on a few percent, too, with Severn Trent gaining 3% to 1,749 pence and United Utilities Group up 2.5% to 660 pence. Hedge fund manager Man Group recovered nearly 3% to 76 pence, to recoup some of its recent losses arising from fears of its flagship fund's underperformance.
Leading the fallers, TV network operator ITV fell by 10% to 76.5 pence after analysts predicted a slump in TV ad sales over the summer. Miners and financials also continued their slide, with falls of up to 9%, but other fallers include building materials supplier CRH, down 7.5% to 1,069 pence, and department store Marks & Spencer, down more than 5% to 329 pence.
Across the union
It's finally dawning on Germany that the eurozone as we know it might just collapse, leading to heavy falls in the financial sector this week, with Deutsche Bank down 7.5% to 27 euros and Allianz falling by the same margin to 70 euros. Industrial group Thyssenkrupp also fell by 9% to 13 euros after a Moody's downgrade, and Daimler was down 6.5% to 35.5 euros.
It was nearly all red in France, too, with L'Air Liquide falling 10% to 85 euros, and recent volatile shares like Alcatel Lucent moving down, by 8% to 1.2 euros.
When will this bear market come to an end? Nobody can say, but we're going to need the huge uncertainty surrounding the euro to be at least partially cleared, that's for sure.
Finally, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett has spent more than $1 billion buying shares of one of the U.K.'s most successful large caps.
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