European stock markets fell on Friday with attention fixed on Spain as it prepares to publish an audit of its stricken banks and as a tough budget in France dampened the mood.
The financial sector was in sharp focus also after Britain's financial regulator ruled that the key Libor interest rate needs a "complete overhaul" in the wake of the Barclays rate-rigging scandal.
London's benchmark FTSE 100 index of top companies dipped 0.27 percent to 5,763.51 points in afternoon deals, as Frankfurt's DAX 30 lost 0.58 percent to 7,247.88 points and in Paris the CAC 40 tumbled 1.27 percent to 3,395.62 after the French budget announcement.
Madrid's IBEX 35 index slumped 1.39 percent.
On Wall Street, in the first thirty minutes of trade Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.72 percent lower, the S&P 500-stock index fell 0.60 percent and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite shed 0.37 percent.
"The US equity markets are giving back yesterday's gains in the wake of a mixed domestic personal income and spending report, as well as continued Spanish caution ahead of its release of the results from its banking sector audit," analysts at Charles Schwab & Co. said.
Stock markets had rebounded on Thursday as dealers brushed aside downbeat US growth data and took stock of a fresh Spanish austerity budget amid fears Madrid needs a full sovereign bailout.
In foreign exchange trade, the euro climbed to $1.2923 from $1.2911 late in New York on Thursday. Gold prices rose to $1,781 an ounce on the London Bullion Market from $1,763 on Thursday.
France's budget intends to plug a 37-billion-euro hole in its public finances with the toughest package of tax rises and spending cuts the country has known in an economic downturn.
The 2013 budget adopted by President Francois Hollande's cabinet commits the ruling Socialists to an austerity programme and sharp deficit reduction at a time when the economy is teetering on the brink of recession.
"A 1.5 percent reduction of the deficit represents a considerable effort at the best of times. In a period of zero growth it would be exceptional," said Elie Cohen, director of research at the government-financed CNRS think tank.
In Spain, the formulation of the 2013 budget and audit of the country's sick banking system is seen on the markets as one of the final acts before a sovereign bailout.
The eurozone has already agreed to extend a rescue loan of up to 100 billion euros for a banking system bogged down by bad loans that piled up after a 2008 property crash.
If Spain formally requests a broader sovereign bailout, it would become eligible to benefit from a bond-buying programme for troubled states, as outlined by the European Central Bank on September 6.
That would curb Spain's borrowing costs, but to qualify Madrid would have to apply for help from the European Stability Mechanism -- and submit to its conditions.
Spanish borrowing costs briefly bounced back above 6.0 percent this week, reaching a level deemed unsustainable for the country's finances. However, they held below the key level on Friday.
"Looking ahead, Spain's bank stress test results are due, with markets expecting around 60 billion euros of capital shortfalls for the sector," ETX Capital trader Ishaq Siddiqi said.
"Greece will also be in the spotlight after it reached a deal with coalition partners yesterday for a multi-billion euro bailout austerity plan."
Elsewhere on Friday, shares in British banks initially rose after the Financial Services Authority argued that industry body the British Bankers' Association must be stripped of its role in setting Libor.
The London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor) is a flagship instrument used all over the world, affecting what banks, businesses and individuals pay to borrow money. Euribor is the eurozone equivalent.
Barclays was the first bank to be fined as part of a global probe into suspected manipulation of the twin interest rates that are crucial to the operation of short-term financing and global markets.