LONDON - European shares were poised to register their biggest
annual drop since 2008 on Friday after a year marred by the euro
zone debt crisis that has threatened to drag down the global economy.
At 12:00 GMT the FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.3 percent at 995.40
points in choppy trading with
volume as light as 10.9 percent of the 90-day average. The UK and
German markets will close
early ahead of the New Year holiday weekend.
The European index was on track to record an 11.5 percent loss for
the year, with euro zone banks, which own the bulk of troubled Greek,
Italian and Spanish debt, losing nearly 40 percent of their value in
All cyclical sectors fell heavily over the course of the year, with
basic resources and automotive stocks down 31 percent and 25 percent
respectively. Investors have shunned these sectors as government
austerity measures and a lending squeeze in the euro zone could
derail a fragile world economic
"It has been a tough year, particularly for stock-picking
managers, and we'll probably
see more of the same in the first quarter, with a lot of uncertainty
over the euro zone," said James Buckley, who helps manage 1 billion
pounds at Baring Asset
Italy, Europe's largest debtor, faces 100 billion euros of bond
redemptions and coupon payments by the end of April, which is likely
to make investors nervous going into next year.