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LONDON -- European markets were mixed Monday morning, as the major indices bounced between positive and negative territory.

In London, the

FTSE 100

was 24 points lower to 6343 as a slew of data, including an unexpectedly sharp rise in consumer credit growth, were largely ignored in favor of waiting for the U.S. open.

The U.K. has been battered by some of the worst gales in living memory and predictably, the storms have taken the wind out of insurers' sails.

Royal & Sun Alliance

, which rose sharply on Friday following unsubstantiated bid rumors, bore the brunt of the selloff. By midday the shares stood 23p lower at 469 ($6.85).



fell 22p to 925.

The banks, which are exposed to the insurance business, felt the impact, too.



fell 54p to

18.76. Press reports that the bank is planning to return to investment banking, even after the dismal failures of the past, failed to stem the selloff.

Oil stocks suffered ahead of


decision to raise production by 2% if crude remains above $28 per barrel.

BP Amoco


fell 15.5p to 573 and



slid 10p to stand at 547. On the Continent,

Total Elf Fina

was down 4.50 euros to 162.50 ($138.13).

In telcos, the shares of

Cable & Wireless

( CWP) fell to a low of 945p, but recovered slightly to 947p, a loss of 3.4%, following an announcement that it intends to build a fiber optic network in Japan.



rose 3p to 286 after reports that it is negotiating to buy a stake in



mobile arm.

On the Continent, the


in Paris was up 2 points to 6271 but the

Xetra Dax

in Frankfurt was down 6 points to 6919.

One of the biggest drops was in Dutch telco


( KPN), which announced this morning it is having to implement cost-cutting measures, such as laying 8,000 employees, to pay for the third-generation mobile phone licenses. KPN hopes the measures will realize 700 million euros in annual savings. By midday, the shares were down 1.60 euros to 24.50.

On the other side, Spain's largest bank

Banco Santander Central Hispano

( STD) rose 0.35 euro to 11.35 after reporting that profits in the first nine months of this year rose 36% to 1.6 billion euros, which was above analysts' estimates.