London's leading shares index sustained more heavy losses Friday as the turmoil engulfing world markets showed no signs of easing.
The FTSE 100 Index opened more than 2.5 percent lower - off 140 points at 5253 - amid investor panic over the deepening eurozone debt crisis and health of the US economy. The FTSE 100 registered its biggest fall of the year yesterday - shattering pensions and savings funds as it wiped 50 billion pounds off its value - while Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 4.3 percent, one of its worst ever falls.
The picture was just as bleak in Asia where Japan's Nikkei 225 slid 3.7 percent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 5 percent.
The plunge in share prices came amid rising fears that Italy and Spain, the eurozone's third and fourth largest economies, could default on their debt and require EU-funded bailouts, analysts said.The FTSE 100 Index plunged to its lowest levels since early September last year, while Germany's DAX fell 2.7 percent and the Cac-40 in France dropped 2.
2 percent.The banking sector suffered the greatest falls in London - including a 14 percent drop for Royal Bank of Scotland, which today published half-year results revealing a 794 million pounds loss.Lloyds Banking Group fell 10 percent to around half the price the Government paid for its shares in its 21 billion pounds bailout, while Barclays also dropped 10 percent.
European fears were heightened yesterday after the cost of borrowing for the Spanish government rose sharply in a debt auction - indicating lenders have lost confidence in the country's ability to handle its debts and avoid a bailout, the analysts added.But the focus today will return to the US, where worried traders are waiting for the latest unemployment figures, which are expected to show weak job growth and a rise in the unemployment rate.Elsewhere, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso fuelled fears after he called for a "rapid reassessment" of the eurozone's multi-billion euro rescue fund as he said new powers granted just two weeks ago were insufficient to contain the current crisis.