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The FTSE 100

adopted what has increasingly becoming the norm: it grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

It turned back a near 100-point gain to briefly fall below the 6,000 level for the first time since October last year and ended with a loss of 63.4 points, or 1.0%, at 6005.2.

"If we stumble here, the next stop is 5,800," commented one leading marketmaker. "This 6,000 level is important".

In the banks,

Lloyds TSB

slid 36.5p, or 6.2%, to 564.

Royal Bank of Scotland

also featured among the where-withouts with a loss of 23p, or 2.5%, to 784.


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also sparkled like a damp squib, turning a gain of 82p in the wake of its figures into one of just 5p, or 0.4%, to 14.38 pounds.

Another day, another


. Investors continued to cast off any remaining inhibitions by putting the mortgage money in the stratosphere sector, better known as tech stocks. The high-tech investment and research firm Durlacher, with interim results due on Thursday, jumped 212p, or 4.9%, to 39.30 pounds.

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ballooned 709p, or 18.9%, to 44.00 pounds on news of its


joint venture's tie-up with


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But among the shooting stars, there were also some earlier gainers that burned up on re-entry and thudded into planet earth, including

Baltimore Technology

, down 600p, or 5.5%, to 104 pounds.

BP Amoco


managed to turn triumph into adversity, closing 7.5p lower, or 1.6%, at 474, having been 20 higher after an initially positive response to its fourth-quarter figures.

The Continent's stock markets were looking for direction Tuesday and by the afternoon they had found it: unfortunately it was down. The

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt closed down 248.67, or 3.3%, at 7396.13 and the

CAC 40

in Paris finished 175.69 lower, or 2.8%, at 6092.63.

German utility



was one of the few stocks that managed to buck the trend and was able to build on Monday's gains on talk it was about to announce an Internet strategy. RWE shares ended up 1.60 euros, or 4.9%, at 34.60. Industry analysts warn, however, the technology has a long way to go before it is commercially viable.

Other utilities






also booked gains Tuesday, following shareholder approval of their proposed merger. Although the linkup still faces regulatory scrutiny, Veba ended up 1.63 euros, or 3.7%, at 45.94 and Viag climbed 0.65 euros higher, or 3.6%, to 18.51.

Telecoms erased early gains to finish the day lower.

France Telecom


fell 13.50 euros, or 7.9%, to 158.20 and

Deutsche Telekom

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closed down 2.49 euros, or 2.9%, at 84.81.

Technology shares struggled the entire session, with software maker


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ending down 40 euros, or 4.7%, at 812 and


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closed 22 euros lower, or 12.7%, at 151.