LONDON -- An uncertain start in Europe's markets gave way to general weakness today. All the major bourses finished lower.

The

FTSE 100

, which started the day dull and listless, drifted lower through the session to close down 57 points, or 0.8%, to 6695.

Dragging down the index were the telecom heavyweights

British Telecom

(BTY)

and

Vodafone

(VOD) - Get Report

. BT took a pounding after ratings agency

Moody's Investors Service

cut its rating on the company to A2 from Aa1, leaving BT down 54p, or 6.0%, at 850 ($12.33). That right hook to the index was followed a left jab as Vodafone fell on reports that

Hutchison Whampoa

(HUWHY)

is considering selling its 3.4% stake in the company. Vodafone ended down 10p, or 3.4%, at 282.

If investors were desperate for some good news, though, they had to look no further than oil shares, which found favor as Brent crude traded higher in London, pushing through the $33 a barrel to a 10-year high before falling back ahead of

Opec's

weekend meeting to decide on oil production levels.

Exploration and production stocks in particular found form, inspired by

Enterprise Oil

, which reported first-half production up 40% and operating profits up nearly sevenfold to

477 million. The market responded by lifting the shares 19.5p, or 3.4%, to 594.5p.

The majors were also firmer, with

BP

(BPA)

up 2.5p to 657 and

Shell

(SC) - Get Report

up 3p, or 0.5%, to 606.

New Economy stocks, however, reversed some of the gains made over the past few sessions, a theme mapped out by the

Techmark 100

, which drooped 80 points, or 2.0%, to 4021.

Baltimore Technologies

was the big loser, shedding 70p, or 8.0%, to

8.09. Other popular TMT stocks that suffered included

Sage

, down 31p, or 4.8%, to

TheStreet Recommends

6.19 and

ARM Holdings

(ARMHY)

, down 41p, or 5.0%, to 784.

On the Continent, the

CAC 40

in Paris closed down 59.9, or 0.9%, at 6,796.8 and late in the German session the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was off 73.5, or 1%, at 7,321.6. The Neuer Markt's tech-heavy

Nemax 50

index was 97.8 lower, or 1.6%, at 6,266.5.

German techs and telecoms weighed on the Dax for the entire day, with

Siemens

(SMWAY)

down 5.74 euros, or 3.1%, at 182.26 ($162.27) and

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

14.58 euros lower, or 4.8%, at 293.01.

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

was down 0.57 euros, or 1.2%, at 46.50.

Elsewhere telcos put in a mixed performance, as

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Report

closed up 0.03 euros, or 0.1%, at 23.78 and

France Telecom

(FTE)

closed down 0.90 euros, or 0.6%, at 143.60 ahead of releasing first-half results.

Paris-listed network services firm

Equant

(ENT) - Get Report

rose 0.50 euros, or 1%, to 52.20, amid reports the company was again in merger talks with

Infonet

(IN)

.

French oil company

TotalFinaElf

(TOT) - Get Report

rose 3.50 euros, or 2%, to 181.00, after reporting first-half profit more than doubled.