LONDON (TheDeal) -- European markets fell again on Tuesday with literally hours to go until "D" Day for Greece -- "D" as in a default on its €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) International Monetary Fund bill due at midnight.
If Greece misses the witching hour deadline as widely feared, that will push it into uncharted territory and outside the formal protection of Europe's bailout program. Then it's another four days of nail-biting until Sunday's unprecedented national referendum, which Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is billing as an austerity vote but leaders in Germany and France see as a vote for or against staying in the euro.
Benchmark indices were down across the region, with the FTSE 100 shedding 0.79% to 6,567.95 in London, the DAX 0.69% lower at 11,007.03 in Frankfurt and the CAC 40 backpedalling 0.64% to 4,838.86 in Paris.
With the growing danger of a "Grexit," investors paid little heed to positive economic news from Europe's biggest economies. In Germany, the number of jobless fell for a ninth straight month to a seasonally adjusted 2.79 million, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 6.4%, the Federal Labor Agency in Nuremberg said on Tuesday.
And in the U.K., the Office for National Statistics said first-quarter GDP rose by 0.4% rather than an original estimate of 0.3%, while market research firm GfK reported that consumer confidence rose to its highest level in more than 15 years.
Despite the dark clouds hovering over investor sentiment, there were some corporate silver linings keeping things interesting.