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FTSE opens with more heavy losses

London's leading shares index has sustained more heavy losses as the turmoil engulfing world markets shows no signs of easing.

The FTSE 100 Index opened on Friday more than 2.5% lower - off 140 points at 5253 - amid investor panic over the deepening eurozone debt crisis and health of the US economy.

It came after the FTSE 100 registered its biggest fall of the year on Thursday - shattering pensions and savings funds as it wiped £50 billion off its value - while Wall Street's Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 4.3%, one of its worst ever falls.

The picture was just as bleak in Asia where Japan's Nikkei 225 slid 3.7% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng dropped 5%.

The plunge in share prices came amid rising fears that Italy and Spain, the eurozone's third and fourth largest economies, could default on their debt and require EU-funded bailouts.

European fears were heightened on Thursday after the cost of borrowing for the Spanish government rose sharply in a debt auction - indicating lenders have lost confidence in the country's ability to handle its debts and avoid a bailout.

But the focus will return to the US on Friday, where worried traders are waiting for the latest unemployment figures, which are expected to show weak job growth and a rise in the unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, some traders and analysts are expecting the US to be stripped of its AAA credit rating in light of recent weak economic data and its debt-laden public purse.

© Press Association