World stocks slide again amid fears about French banks

European stocks fell again today as concerns over the financial health of French banks reignited, and any optimism over Wall Street's faded.

European stocks fell again today as concerns over the financial health of French banks reignited, and any optimism over Wall Street's faded.

The wild swings highlight how jittery markets are amid concerns over the global economy and the levels of debt in the US and Europe.

France's banks bore the brunt of the selling once again, just a day after rumours over Societe Generale's financial health, sent investors scuttling out of the sector.

Concern over Europe's ability to tackle its debt crisis - which now threatens to engulf large economies like Italy and Spain and is hampering growth in France - made wider waves and shares in many European banks fell.

After an early rebound, bank shares across Europe were down, some sharply, including Societe Generale, which has followed up Wednesday's 15% decline with another 8% drop.

As a result, France's CAC-40 underperformed its peers, trading 2.8% lower at 2,920. The FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.7% at 4,975 while Germany's DAX fell 1.2% to 5,545.

A complete turnaround in Wall Street futures has added to the unease - Dow futures were down 1.2% at 10,595 while the broader S&P 500 futures fell 1.5% to 1,106. For much of the European session, they had been trading an equivalent rate higher.

"We are seeing the same reaction now that we have seen in recent days - the rally has stalled with many traders unwilling to believe that this is anything more than just another dead cat bounce," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

The volatility came after Wednesday's hammering of stocks in Europe and the US.

Any investor cheer to the news that the Federal Reserve was keeping its super-low interest rates until the middle of 2013 dissipated as they interpreted that stance to mean that the US economy will not improve substantially by 2013.

Worries over Europe's debt crisis spreading have also not been calmed by a more active role in the bond markets from the European Central Bank.

"Modest monetary easing from the Fed and ECB purchases of Italian and Spanish debt have failed to calm investor fears that the global economy is heading into a renewed recession driven by the escalating eurozone sovereign debt crisis," said Lee Hardman, an analyst at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.

Though stock markets are swinging wildly, there has been a measure of calm in the bond markets of Spain and Italy in the wake of the ECB's purchase of their bonds. The yield, or interest rate, on Spanish and Italian 10-year bonds remained stable at around 5%.

That rate is considered manageable for now and is over a percentage point lower than where they were trading a week ago.

However, analysts think that they will have to get even lower to really dampen worries that Europe's debt crisis will ensnare the eurozone's third and fourth largest economies.

"The reality is they will need to buy an awful lot more to get them down to sustainable levels well below 5%," warned Michael Hewson, market analyst at CMC Markets.

Earlier, Asian markets were under pressure following Wednesday's big reverse on Wall Street.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1 % to 19,595.10, but China's main index in Shanghai rose 1.3% to 2,703.90.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index slipped 0.6 % to close at 8,981.94 as a strengthening yen, clobbered Japan's crucial export sector. Honda Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Corp. each lost 3.5%.

In the oil markets, prices retreated alongside equities. The main New York fell 60 cents to $82.29 a barrel, after earlier trading above at $84.

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