Recovery Fears Return To World Stock Markets
Stock markets are taking a pounding due to fears over the global economic recovery and a crisis of confidence at Portugal's largest bank.
Weak economic data from Italy and mounting concern about the future of Banco Espirito Santo drove the sell-off, spreading from southern euro nations and across Europe to the United States.
Portugal's PSI closed 4.2% down - with banking stocks worst affected after allegations surfaced that Banco Espirito Santo's parent firm covered up a ?1.3bn (£1bn) hole in its accounts.
The Italian MIB and IBEX in Spain both lost more than 2% - with the DAX in Germany and French CAC shedding more than 1%.
The rush for safe havens, and gold in particular, was also seen in London - the FTSE 100 losing 0.6% after bleeding value each day over the course of the week amid fears of a looming correction.
The problems in Portugal were blamed on shares and bonds of Espirito Santo International, the chief shareholder in Banco Espirito Santo, being suspended over "material difficulties" at the parent firm.
It was reported earlier by the Portuguese newspaper Diaro Economico that Espirito Santo International was considering filing for controlled insolvency if debt renegotiations with clients failed.
Banco Espirito Santo shares dived more than 17% at one stage despite government assurances the bank was solid.
Trading in the bank's shares was later suspended - pending "an announcement".
Italy's contribution to the sell-off was economic data which showed Italian industrial output posting its steepest monthly fall since November 2012 in May, casting doubts over the country's economic recovery.
Nerves were already frayed across world stock markets after confirmation the previous evening that the US Federal Reserve would end its quantitative easing programme in October if the US recovery continued on its current course.
The move would effectively cut off the supply of cheap credit the financial markets had grown used to since after the financial crisis - the stimulus being cited as artificially lifting world stock market values - some to record highs in recent months.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.4% on Wall Street - the jitters in Europe contributing to the risk-off sentiment - with the tech-dominated Nasdaq seeing 1.4% wiped from its value at one stage.
Alistair McCaig, market analyst at IG, said of activity on the FTSE 100: "That 6,700 from a psychological point of view was giving it a bit of confidence, and with the 200 day moving average around there as well, we were looking for some support.
"When that didn't transpire and we have broad weakness across Europe, it's a risk off day on the FTSE 100."