Global stock markets were under pressure Wednesday as the eurozone debt crisis continued to push most European government borrowing costs dangerously higher.
Dealers said there was some respite from the turmoil as Italy and Greece put in place new governments committed to tough economic reforms but all eurozone nations bar powerhouse Germany were roughed up on the bond markets.
Italian benchmark 10-year bond yields once again topped the 7.0 percent red-zone level, with Spain hit too after it had to abandon its 2011 growth target of a very modest 1.3 percent.
Only Germany stood out as a beacon of safety, attracting investors anxious not to get caught up in the eurozone debt storm as US figures showed sharp inflows of funds seeking a refuge there.
The prospects spooked the stock markets and even New York could find no support in better-than-expected data on US industrial output, confirming a recent trend of more positive economic data.
"Contagion has spread across eurozone bond markets like wildfire and the lack of action to create a firewall means that there is little to extinguish it," Credit Agricole said in a note to clients.
In mid-afternoon trade, London's FTSE 100 index of top shares was down 0.36 percent, Frankfurt's DAX 30 shed 0.40 percent and in Paris the CAC 40 rose 0.32 percent.
Milan gained 0.64 percent and Madrid was up 0.99 percent.
"European stocks remain volatile as the market struggles to maintain a firm trend in either direction," said ETX Capital trader Manoj Ladwa.
"Given ongoing sovereign debt issues, and growth in the eurozone stagnant at best, markets are likely to remain undecided for the foreseeable future."
The euro sank to $1.3429 -- its lowest point since October 10 -- at one stage but then recovered to $1.3512, still down from $1.3536 in New York late Tuesday.
"Traders are transfixed by the euro currently," said David Morrison, an analyst at GFT traders.
"With eurozone bond yields also under pressure, tomorrow's auction of French 2-, 4- and 5-year notes is being eyed nervously," he told AFP.
In New York, stocks were down from the opening as investors picked up on the bond market lead, showing little confidence in Europe's efforts to manage its debt crisis.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.90 percent at around 1500 GMT while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite lost 0.64 percent.
"Europe's leadership ... is doing what it can to defuse the situation, yet the gyrations of the sovereign bond markets and the paltry volume in the US equity market suggest confidence is lacking in their efforts thus far, said Patrick O'Hare at Briefing.com.
Dealers said 10-year bond rates above 7.0 percent are unsustainable over the longer term and noted that Greece, Ireland and Portugal all had to be bailed out by the European Union and International Monetary Fund when their borrowing costs hit such levels.
France meanwhile, concerned to keep its top AAA credit rating and with presidential elections due in May 2012, is having to pay about twice as much as Germany to borrow for 10 years.
This is an additional concern on the financial markets, partly because the architecture of EU bailout mechanisms rests on France's AAA rating being kept, with rating agencies having warned already that Paris is on slippery ground.
In Asian trade earlier Wednesday, Tokyo lost 0.92 percent, Hong Kong sank 2.0 percent, Sydney fell 0.89 percent and Shanghai ended 2.48 percent down.