European shares down 6.8 percent in global plunge
Swept into a global panic sell-off
European stocks tumbled nearly 7 percent early on Friday, swept into a global panic sell-off as investors feared world governments` efforts to thaw credit markets would fail to ward off a global recession, Reuters reported.
Fragile banks led the decline, with Barclays off 9.6 percent and Santander down 7.1 percent. HBOS , a standout faller in Europe, dropped 13.7 percent.
Oil shares also tumbled, with BP and Royal Dutch Shell down 5 and 5.9 percent respectively as crude fell 4.3 percent.
At 10:10 a.m., the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index was down 6.8 percent at 858.86 points, after falling more than 9 percent in early trade and hitting its lowest level since July 2003.
The index has fallen more than 21 percent so far this week, on track for its worst week on record, in a credit crisis that has frozen interbank lending, hammered banks and slowed the global economy.
European shares have dropped about 43 percent in the year to date.
World stocks slumped to their lowest levels in five years on Friday. Measures from the United States, Britain and other countries to fight the worst financial crisis in 80 years -- even this week`s coordinated interest rate cuts -- have failed to calm credit and money markets and quell investor fears.
Finance chiefs from the Group of Seven rich nations meet in Washington later on Friday to discuss how to stem the crisis.
"The steps that have been taken thus far have yet to prove their worth," said Mike Lenhoff, chief market strategist at Brewin Dolphin in London.
"The bears are in their element at the moment," he added. "It`s as if the financial system has lost its capacity to function."
The FTSE 100 lost 5.5 percent, France`s CAC lost 6.5 percent and Germany`s DAX shed 8.2 percent. The major national indexes earlier fell as much as 10 percent.
Japan`s Nikkei 225 fell nearly 10 percent on Friday, while Wall Street`s Dow Jones industrial average shed more than 7 percent on Thursday.
Investors blamed the slide in U.S. stocks on Thursday on the expiry of a ban on short-selling of financial stocks, there was intense speculation on whether U.S. authorities would extend the restrictions.
Even traditionally defensive stocks failed to offer investors shelter in the stricken European market. Utilities tumbled, with E.ON the biggest individual negative weight in Europe, off 11 percent.
GDF Suez shares dropped 8 percent, extending Thursday`s 13 percent fall after Belgian energy minister Paul Magnette told Le Soir newspaper of plans to cap electricity prices at subsidiary Electrabel.
Pharmaceutical stocks, usually seen as defensives, were not spared: AstraZeneca was down 5.5 percent, GlaxoSmithKline off 6.1 percent and Novartis down 5.7 percent.
Heavyweight stock Vodafone dropped 7 percent.
Miners took a whipping as copper plunged 9 percent, with Rio Tinto slumping 12 percent, BHP Billiton down 10 percent and Anglo American losing 8.7 percent.
Equity trading in Russia, Austria, Iceland, Romania, Ukraine and Indonesia was halted while nearly half of Milan stocks were suspended for excessive losses.
"It`s just a panic ... investors are deciding: `This is the time at which were going to throw in the towel`," said Peter Dixon, an economist at Commerzbank in London. "As one of my colleagues said: `Game over please insert coins`."Reuters