LONDON -- It was a pretty dismal day in European markets, with much of the blame for that on the mercurial wireless sector.
In London, the
closed down 83 points at 6,203 and the
fell by 85 points to 3,362.
Early weakness in the FTSE 100's two big telecom stocks,
, set the tone for the rest of the session. BT came under pressure after a reported bust-up with its partners in Italian mobile consortium
. The shares eventually closed 38.5p lower, or 5.3%, at 682. Meanwhile, Vodafone shed some of its recent gains on news Monday evening that the float of its joint venture
has been pulled. Vodafone eventually closed 10.75p lower, or 4.1%, at 252.
Add in a slump in shares of
after it said that third-quarter income from its mobile-phone unit was zero and it has cut its forecast for mobile-phone sales this year to 14 million from 18 million, then it all looked very uninviting.
At first the market just trickled lower, but it started to build up momentum on reports that Middle East crisis talks had ended without any agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. Later, when some kind of accord was reached, the news provided no cheer to the market.
Instead, crude oil prices shed their gains and
moved lower. BP slipped to an intraday low of 613p, before recovering slightly to finish 10.5p lower, or 1.7%, at 622.5. Shell dropped to 585p, before finally closing at 598.5p, a rise of 3.5p, or 0.6%.
However, today's volume was light. This left market professionals confused about whether the action was indicative of the broader trend, or whether it was just a sign of everyone sitting on their hands. In truth, it may have been one or the other, or both. But there was certainly a feeling of players keeping their powder dry until after the US reporting season really gets underway. Tech blue chips
both report tonight, while
releases figures Wednesday.
"The confidence is not there, the sentiment is not there," said
Nigel Cobby. "People are fed up getting hurt. I'm not bearish at these levels, but the market is very difficult."
So nerves remained high and IT services company
was a major casualty of the fear factor today. The stock fell out of bed after receiving a couple of broker downgrades. The company was the FTSE 100's biggest loser, shedding a massive 15.3% as it fell to 11.20p. Overdone? Perhaps, but the fear is that there will be more downgrades to follow.
hit another historic low as it fell to 25p. Is QXL a good buy here, or is it just good bye? Investors who bought at the year high of 764p will no doubt be hoping for the former. The shares eventually closed at 25.75p, a fall of 9.7% or 2.75p.
, another once popular stock, also came under pressure as it fell 9.25p, or 4.9%, to 180.75p.
Europe's other stock markets closed lower, as the
in Paris ended off 20.9, or 0.4%, at 6,067.2 and the
in Frankfurt was down 64.6, or 1%, at 6,562.7 late in the German trading day. The Neuer Markt's tech-heavy
index was 9.4 lower, or 0.2%, at 4,309.5.
Also in Amsterdam, electronics giant Philips finished down 2.65 euros, or 5.8%, at 42.9, and this hurt stocks such as German rival
, which closed down 7.05 euros, or 4.9%, at 137.50.
Telecoms ended mixed, as
climbed 0.29 euros, or 0.8%, to 38.67 ($32.88),
closed near unchanged at 102.20 euros and Dutch telco
tanked 0.85 euros, or 3.9%, to 21.14.
dropped 2.85 euros, or 5.3%, to 50.60, ahead of reporting earnings later this week.