European Closing Update: Markets End Down but off Lows - TheStreet

LONDON -- It was always going to be a difficult day on Wednesday after the overnight falls on Wall Street. And at one point it looked as if European markets were about to go into freefall. But one roller-coaster ride later the markets closed down, yet off their lows.

UK equities moved lower from the offset, and the mood turned really ugly just before Wall Street kicked off. The

FTSE 100

plunged to a session low of 6,017 as the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

fell through 10,000, but by the close the FTSE 100 was down just 55 points, or 0.9%, at 6,148. The tech sector was under the hammer for most of the session and the

Techmark 100

eventually closed down 147 points, or 4.4%, at 3,216.

For most of the day, it was a struggle to find any stocks in positive territory. By the close, things were very different.

British Telecom's

(BTY)

performance was indicative of the whole day. The shares fell to an annual low of 959.5 pence ($13.82), but eventually rebounded to close up 8p, or 1.2%, at 690. Similarly

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

fell to a low of 240, before bouncing back to stand 1.25p, or 0.5%, higher at 253.25.

Internet security firm

Baltimore Technologies

(BALT)

was the main index's biggest loser and it weighed heavily on the Techmark. The shares closed 66p, or 12.9%, lower at 444. An imminent massive share placing by

Lehman Brothers

was the main reason for the fall.

In the semiconductor sector, chip designer

Parthus Technologies

(PRTH) - Get Report

was generally firm. The shares initially rose after its third-quarter results, which showed losses widened but royalty sales up. The shares fell back as the

Nasdaq

opened lower and then rallied to close up 27.5p, or 10.2%, at 296.5.

As if all the stock movements weren't enough, there was also some important data to digest. The

Bank of England's

Monetary Policy Committee voted 9-0 at its October meeting to leave rates on hold. This has prompted hopes that U.K. rates have now peaked. However, is this because the economy is slowing? Probably not, if the latest average-earnings data is to be believed.

Meanwhile, the euro hit a new low against the dollar. This is bad for Europe, if you believe most media reports. But don't believe everything you hear or read. Statistical analysis suggests that the lower the euro falls, the higher euro-zone equities climb. Of course, this may just be coincidence. By late afternoon, the euro was worth 84 U.S. cents.

Europe's other stock markets closed lower, led down by weak technology shares. The

CAC 40

in Paris ended off 129.8, or 2.1%, at 5,937.4 and the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was down 76.3, or 1.2%, at 6,455.4 late in the German trading day. The Neuer Markt's tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index was 141.7 lower, or 3.3%, at 4,174.8.

Techs were under the gun all day following

IBM's

(IBM) - Get Report

lackluster earnings.

Siemens

(SMWAY)

was down 5.50 euros, or 4.0%, at 131.00 ($111.94) and

Epcos

(EPC) - Get Report

was off 4.91 euros, or 5.9%, at 79.00.

Telecoms likewise got squeezed as

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

fell 0.38 euros, or 1%, to 37.00,

France Telecom

(FTE)

fell 4.00 euros, or 3.9%, to 98.20 euros and

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

tanked 0.75 euros, or 3.6%, to 20.05.

Telco equipment maker

Alcatel

(ALA)

plunged 6.20 euros, or 8.2%, at 69.50 and

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Report

fell 2.40 euros, or 6.4%, to 35.00.