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LONDON -- The die was cast in the U.S.

European markets fell from the outset and looked unlikely to crawl out of the mire unless Wall Street dragged them out, kicking and screaming.

The

FTSE 100

was down 22.5 points to 6328.3, and the

Techmark

index plunged 175.7 points to 3718.1.

There was the occasional bright spot, with

British Telecom

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head and shoulders above the rest as the company announced a comprehensive restructuring along the lines of what

Telefonica

(TEF) - Get Free Report

and

Deutsche Telekom

(DT) - Get Free Report

have done. BT is set to create four high-growth businesses operating globally and is putting in place a more aggressive European expansion plan. BT's shares responded to the news with a gain of 30p to

11.19.

Vodafone AirTouch

(VOD) - Get Free Report

moved below 300 before steadying to stand 10p lower at 302.5 despite Wednesday's news that the

European Commission

has approved the takeover of

Mannesmann

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.

Oils also resisted the overall trend, with

BP Amoco

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adding 16p to 554 as brent one-month crude recovered to US$23.10 a barrel. This was in response to reports that

OPEC

may cut production if the price falls below US$22 a barrel. Also, BP Amoco's acquisition of

Atlantic Richfield

(ARC) - Get Free Report

has been given conditional approval by the

Federal Trade Commission

.

Shell

(SC) - Get Free Report

was 8p firmer at 503, with

Credit Lyonnais

rating the shares a buy.

Technology shares all over Europe suffered. In London,

Baltimore Technologies

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fell 425p to

65.60,

BATM Advanced Communications

was down 445p to

43.00,

Psion

was 444p lower to

33.25, and

ARM Holdings

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slid 144p to

30.90 before steadying to stand 59p lower at

31.75.

On the Continent,

Nokia

(NOK) - Get Free Report

fell 2.30 euros to 51.70,

Alcatel

dropped 10.00 euros to 220.20,

France Telecom

(FTE)

dipped 8.00 euros to 160.00,

Siemens

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inched 1.05 euros lower to 140.50 and

Vivendi

fell 2.20 euros to 109.80.

In Frankfurt,

Hypovereinsbank

and

Commerzbank

(CRZBY)

managed to buck the trend as speculation continued about whether these two banks will be the next targets following the failure of the merger between

Dresdner Bank

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and

Deutsche Bank

(DTBKY)

. Hypo was up 0.04 euro to 68.04 and Commerzbank was up 0.78 euro to 41.27.

Frankfurt's

Xetra Dax

was down 51.68 points to 7391.39, and in Paris, the

CAC 40

was down 9.07 points to 6229.63.