FTSE Plunges in Panic!

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LONDON -- The latest round of euro-panic has been sending the FTSE 100 (INDEX: ^FTSE) into freefall in recent weeks, and it is showing no signs of stopping, with a further fall of 2.3% today.

Eurozone leaders are meeting as we speak, attempting to fudge some sort of short-term remedy for the region's growing debt crisis. But few expect it to be successful, especially with French president Francois Hollande going head-to-head with skeptical German chancellor Angela Merkel over the suggestion of some sort of "super eurobond" as the latest contrivance.

It was actually looking as if the FTSE 100 might recover a little this week, ending yesterday on 5,406. But as I write, it has lost 124 points to slump back to 5,279, well below the 5,300 level.


The 10 biggest FTSE 100 fallers, by around 3:30 p.m. today, were as follows:

Company

Price (pence)

Change

Xstrata

918

(5.6%)

Man Group

73

(5.5%)

Rio Tinto  (NYS: RIO)

2,816

(4.1%)

Aviva  (NYS: AV)

268

(3.7%)

Antofagasta

1,036

(3.7%)

BHP Billiton  (NYS: BBL)

1,697

(3.5%)

Prudential

669

(3.4%)

ITV

77

(3.1%)

Barclays  (NYS: BCS)

184

(2.6%)

Anglo American

2,029

(2.8%)

Banks, financials, and miners have led the falls as fear of the debt crisis spreads among the world's banking circles.

Greek confusion
Will they, or won't they? That's the question asked about Greece's mooted exit from the euro, and mixed messages have been coming from the country. How advanced are plans to cater for a return to the drachma? That's anyone's guess at this stage.

An expected slowdown in Chinese growth is largely behind the mining falls, as a longer slump in commodity prices is expected to ensue.

And as for Man Group, it has long been struggling to meet the high watermark it needs to charge top fees for its flagship hedge fund, and further fears about its ability to turn around its own investing performance, coupled with outflows of cash, have led to more selling of its shares.

At the other end of the table, we do have a small handful of risers, but they're not gaining much. Orthopedics manufacturer Smith & Nephew put on 0.5% to hit 595 pence, and British Sky Broadcasting gained the same to reach 694 pence.

Is the worst yet to come?
Elsewhere in the markets, the London Stock Exchange itself is down more than 7% to 947 pence after two Italian banks announced that they will sell their stakes in it.

A month ago, commenting on April's FTSE falls, my colleague Cliff D'Arcy opined that the worst is yet to come. Are we at the bottom for Europe's stock market indexes yet? I seriously doubt it.

But at the same time, I agree that politics are driving the charts right now, not fundamental company valuations, and I reckon there are plenty of bargains out there for those with a horizon of more than a couple of years. In fact, this free report is helping me pinpoint potential winners right now.

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At the time this article was published Alan does not own any shares mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares in Smith & Nephew.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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