European stocks dip, bitcoin crashes below $10,000

Bitcoin fell to below $10,000 as bubble fears gripped the market

Europe's major stock markets churned lower Wednesday as investors took their cue from downbeat sentiment in Asia, while Wall Street resumed its upward trend.

Virtual currency bitcoin meanwhile dived, falling below $10,000 for the first time in six weeks in what one analyst called a "cryptocalypse" that saw several digital units take a hammering.

London stocks fell "as traders opt to lock in profits following the latest rally," noted Russ Mould, investment director at online stockbroker AJ Bell.

Adding to the gloom, disappointing earnings eclipsed takeover activity in the British capital.

Publisher and conference organiser Informa revealed it was in talks to buy rival UBM to create a giant worth more than £9.0 billion ($12.4 billion, 10.1 billion euros).

The deal is aimed at accelerating growth and slashing costs, the companies said in a statement. But investors were unconvinced, sending Informa shares tumbling.

The FTSE 100 was also punished as poor results from luxury fashion giant Burberry and publisher Pearson sent the two companies' share prices diving.

- 'Cryptocalypse' for bitcoin -

Bitcoin fell below $10,000 for the first time since early December, as the leading cryptocurrency extended Tuesday's 15 percent slump.

The fierce selling also spread to other alternative digital units, with ethereum, ripple and litecoin all losing about a quarter of their value Tuesday.

Bitcoin is down from record highs approaching $20,000 in the week before Christmas, having rocketed 25-fold over the year before being hit by concerns about a bubble and worries about crackdowns on trading it.

"It's been a Cryptocalypse overnight with BTC (bitcoin) and other virtual currencies coming under heavy selling pressure," said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

But Shane Chanel, equities and derivatives adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, sounded a slightly positive note: "Not all hope is lost. The cryptocurrency market is privy to these wild swings and seasoned veterans in this space have seen this happen many times previously.

"Not saying that it couldn't be different this time but every major correction has been followed up by a rally more powerful than the last."

David Cheetham, chief market analyst at XTB also warned against burying bitcoin prematurely.

"There have been numerous occasions when a sell-off in Bitcoin has prompted non-believers to rush in with declarations of the speculative bubble bursting, and each time they have been wrong," he said.

But "crypto bulls" were still "in very real danger of getting badly burned with a substantial further decline ahead entirely feasible", he added.

- Wall Street powers on -

The Dow was headed upwards again, pushing against the 26,000 level, helped by strong industrial production figures.

Industrials were firmer across the board, offsetting some sharp weakness in banking stocks after poor results from Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, who both saw their stocks dive, along with other financials.

"US stocks are regaining upward momentum after stumbling late yesterday, even as earnings results from Dow member Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are being met with some Street scrutiny," the Charles Schwab brokerage said in a note to clients.

In Asia earlier, Hong Kong stocks hit an all-time high to break a record that had been in place for more than 10 years.

However, most other regional markets fell into the red with energy firms rocked by lower oil prices.

- Key figures around 1635 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.4 percent at 7,725.43 points (close)

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.5 percent at 13,183.96 (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,493.99 (close)

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.3 percent at 3,612.78

New York - DOW: UP 0.6 percent at 25,943,30

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 23,868.34 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.3 percent at 31,983.41 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.2 percent at 3,444.67 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.2235 from $1.2259 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3827 from $1.3794

Dollar/yen: UP at 110.76 yen from 110.53 yen

Oil - Brent North Sea: DOWN 3 cents at $69.12 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: UP 1 cent at $63.74