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Greek Concerns Sparked A Sharp Sell-Off In Europe

The European markets finished solidly to the downside on Tuesday. Concerns over Greece and the possibility of a new round of elections in the country, dragged markets lower. Bank stocks were a source of weakness, as were shares of miners. Shares of oil companies were also under pressure, as the price of oil continues to decline.

The situation in Greece weighed heavily on investors Tuesday, raising new concerns over the debt crisis. They are left wondering what will happen with the bailouts that Greece has received and whether will Greece remain a member of the European Union.

Efforts are on in Greece to form a new cabinet, failing which the country will have to face new elections. Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, stated Monday that it was impossible to form a coalition government.

The results of the Greek parliamentary elections held on Sunday showed that the two main parties -- the conservative New Democracy and the left-wing Pasok -- suffered huge defeats, with those opposed to more cuts winning almost 60 percent support in a general election. While New Democracy remained the largest party, it fell short of an absolute majority.

The Euro Stoxx 50 index of eurozone bluechip stocks declined by 2.11 percent, while the Stoxx Europe 50 index, which includes some major U.K. companies, lost 1.49 percent.

The CAC 40 of France dropped by 2.78 percent and the DAX of Germany finished down by 1.90 percent. The FTSE 100 of the U.K. decreased by 1.78 percent and the SMI of Switzerland fell by 1.03 percent.

In Frankfurt, HeidelbergCement finished lower by 2.42 percent. ING upgraded its rating on the stock to "Buy" from "Hold."

Societe Generale downgraded its rating on MAN to "Hold" from "Buy." The stock dropped by 3.82 percent.

Commerzbank closed down by 3.04 percent and Deutsche Bank lost 2.58 percent.

Munich Re decreased by 3.43 percent. The re-insurer reported a profit of 780 million euros for the first quarter, benefited by lower claims costs from natural catastrophes and higher investment income.

Deutsche Post fell by 0.88 percent, after the company confirmed its full year outlook on the back of strong first-quarter profit.

Aareal Bank dropped by 2.34 percent. Commerzbank upgraded the stock to "Buy" from "Hold."

In Paris, Societe Generale declined by 4.75 percent. Credit Agricole finished down by 2.61 percent and BNP Paribas fell by 3.79 percent.

Electricite de France fell by 3.26 percent, after Goldman Sachs downgraded the stock to "Neutral" from "Buy."

Miners finished notably lower in London. BHP Billiton dropped by 3.00 percent and Rio Tinto declined by 3.33 percent. Vedanta Resources retreated by 5.61 percent and Fresnillo closed down by 7.44 percent.

HSBC reported that its first quarter underlying pre-tax profits rose, thanks to solid support from its investment banking division and emerging market operations. The stock closed down by 1.17 percent.

Tullow Oil increased by 3.27 percent. The company said its Ngamia-1 well in Kenya Rift Basin discovered further oil.

Aviva climbed by 0.20 percent after announcing the resignation of its CEO Andrew Moss.

Roche fell by 1.51 percent in Zurich. JPMorgan downgraded its rating on the stock to "Neutral" from "Overweight."

Germany's industrial output growth beat expectations in March with production across most of the major industrial groups improving, data from the Federal Ministry of Economy and Technology showed Tuesday. The seasonally adjusted industrial output rose 2.8 percent month-on-month in March following a 0.3 percent decline in February. Economists expected a 0.8 percent increase.

by RTTNews Staff Writer

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