LONDON -- Caution was this morning's watchword.

Creaking share prices in the Far East after the Japanese government admitted that the country is technically back in recession has inevitably hit European shares. The

FTSE 100

opened 33 lower and has since drifted further to stand 131.6 points down at 6437.1.

Cable & Wireless

(CWP)

was an early casualty of the Far East factor, falling 49p to 14.74 pounds (US$23.44).

HSBC

fell 27p to 682 and

Standard Chartered

slipped 25p to 780.

The rest of the equity market has a drab look to it, but news items and trading statements have occasionally pierced the gloom.

The pharmaceutical sector was given a boost by

AstraZeneca

(AZN) - Get Report

, which gained 109p to 25.95 pounds on news that it has received fast first approval in Sweden for Nexium, its duodenal ulcer treatment.

Glaxo Wellcome

(GLX)

edged up 21p to 16.33 pounds and merger partner

SmithKline Beecham

(SBH) - Get Report

was 12.5p firmer at 752.

Prudential PLC

, which is currently seeking a U.S. listing, added 3p to 951 as it launched a new financial supermarket service from

Egg

, its Internet bank.

E-Capital Investments

gained 5.5p, or 17.2%, to 37.5 following the acquisition of

Virtual European Office

, a business development consultancy that advises U.S. and European Internet and e-commerce companies.

ARM Holdings

(ARMHY)

fell 189p to 46.88 pounds.

Nomura

has released a bearish note on the stock this morning, putting a sell note on the stock and giving a price target way down at 26.40 pounds.

Many other techs weren't doing so well either.

Geo Interactive Media

was down 375p to 31.50 pounds and

Baltimore Technologies

fell 225p to 135.25 pounds.

QXL.com

(QXLC)

shed 112p to 19.60 pounds and

Kewill Systems

fell 80p to 29.82 pounds.

BATM Advanced Communications

advanced 52p to 63.70 pounds and

Netbenefit

was up 287p to 20.12 pounds. Reflecting this rather mixed performance by the techs, the

Techmark

index of leading tech stocks was off 63.1 points to 5657.8.

Media stocks succumbed to profit-taking, with

Reuters

(RTRSY)

easing 100p to 14.93 pounds and

Pearson

slipping 131p to 23.10 pounds.

Most of the major Continental stock markets were also sharply lower, with technology shares taking the brunt of the selling. The

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was down 261.07 to 7714.88 and the

CAC 40

in Paris was 175.79 lower to 6334.49.

Following a bad day for the markets in Asia, Frankfurt technology stocks quickly gave up gains from last week. Software maker

SAP

(SAP) - Get Report

dropped 54.50 euros to 991 (US$960.13) and

Epcos

(EPC) - Get Report

was down 1.88 euros to 138.62.

Siemens

(SMAWY)

fell 13 to 173.50, receiving little support from the debut of its semiconductor unit

Infineon

(IFX)

. The tech weakness also dampened demand for Infineon's new shares, which surged to 80.50 euros from an initial 35, somewhat lower than what had been expected.

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Report

fell 1.15 euros to 96.60, despite reports that the company was still actively pursuing a major international takeover in the wake of the apparent end of talks with

Qwest

(Q)

.

The biggest gainer in Frankfurt was power company

RWE

(RWEOY)

, amid speculation the company may be planning cooperation with

Shell

. RWE was up 1.50 euros to 33.