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European Stocks Fall on Increased Tensions in Ukraine, the Middle East

LONDON ( The Deal) -- European markets followed New York and Asia down Friday, as investors took stock of increased geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East. Both the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines plane over Eastern Ukraine with 298 people on board and Israel's invasion of Gaza served to spook traders.

European markets fell across the board. By mid-morning, London's FTSE 100 was down 0.47% at 6,707, while in Paris, the CAC 40 was down 0.08% at 4,313, In Frankfurt, the DAX was off 0.75% at 9,681.09. At lunchtime in Moscow, the MICEX was off 1.32% at 1,421. The Russian market has been falling all week as the prospect of yet more sanctions looms.

In London, private-equity backed private hospitals operator Spire Healthcare Group priced its initial public offering at the bottom of its book-building range at 210 pence a share. Private-equity owner Cinven sold 100,000 shares into the IPO while the company sold 150 million new shares, raising gross proceeds of 315 million pounds ($539 million) for an opening market capitalization of 842.3 million pounds ($1.44 billion). But by mid-morning, in conditional trading, the share was stuck at its opening price of 210 pence.

One London stock that did soar was pharmaceuticals group Shire (SHPG - Get Report), which rose 2.10% to 4,907 pence after agreeing to a cash-and-shares offer from Chicago pharma peer AbbVie (ABBV - Get Report) that valued the company's stock at 32 billion pounds ($54.7 billion). Shire shareholders will hold 25% of the combined company following the merger, which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter.

As so often in times of crisis, foreign exchange traders moved into the Japanese yen, pushing up the currency and pushing down the value of export oriented companies on the Tokyo market. The Nikkei 225 was off 1.01% at the end of the day at 15,215.72. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng was down 0.28% at 23,454.79. But in Australia, after a sharp initial downturn, the S&P ASX200 returned to positive territory, partly as the markets continued to benefit from the government's controversial decision to repeal a carbon tax. The mood was helped by the Australian senate's vote to raise the cap on foreign ownership in the national airline Qantas to 49%. Qantas closed up 0.4%.

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