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European stocks fall most on record as investors 'flee to fire exit'

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A travel ban announced by US president Donald Trump prompted a plunge in European markets on Thursday. (Bryan R Smith/AFP via Getty Images)

European stocks fell the most on record on Thursday, with London’s benchmark FTSE 100 index (^FTSE) suffering its worst losses since 1987.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) fell by almost 11.4%, its steepest decline since the index was created in 1998.

The FTSE 100 declined by 10.87%, making Thursday’s trading session the second-worst in history.

Other major indices on the continent also suffered record declines.

Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) closed almost 12.3% in the red, as did France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI), suggesting that a stimulus package announced by the European Central Bank (ECB) has done little to allay market anxiety about the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel industry shares were among those hit hardest across Europe on Thursday, as investors scrambled to assess the impact of US president Donald Trump’s 30-day ban on travel from the continent.

Read more: ECB leaves rates unchanged but introduces coronavirus stimulus package

“It is hard to keep coming up with new metaphors for the scale of disaster facing the global markets,” said Conor Campbell, a financial analyst at Spreadex.

“Equities are getting crushed under foot as investors flee to the fire exit, desperately scrambling about for safe havens that feel anything but.”

While the ECB on Thursday introduced a series of stimulus measures designed to curb the economic impact of the fallout, it left interest rates unchanged and called on governments to launch an “ambitious and coordinated fiscal response.”

“I am particularly worried about complacency from European governments,” said ECB president Christine Lagarde.

The bank announced additional cheap loans to provide “immediate liquidity support” to eurozone banks, and said that it would expand its quantitative easing programme by making an additional €120bn (£106bn) in asset purchases.

“The ECB’s stimulus package seemingly only made matters worse,” said Campbell.