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UK markets hold steady

T-Online flotation, hopes of gains in US markets hold UK stocks back from the brink - for now

UK markets avoided the all-out bloodbath some had feared Monday, with the FTSE 100 even recovering some of its losses in the last half-hour of trading. Traders said the late rise, which saw the index close down by 183.5, or 3 percent, was due to signs that US stocks were stabilising.

techMARK 100, designed to track significant high-tech shares, slid 137.58. Heavy losses all round were expected after a disastrous trading day on Wall Street Friday.

The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.4 percent in the first 45 minutes of trade, after suffering its largest ever one-day point loss on Friday. The tech-heavy Nasdaq jumped 2.4 percent after finishing Friday 10 percent down on the day and 25 percent lower on the week.

Another encouraging sign was the success -- relatively speaking, anyway -- of T-Online. Europe's largest ISP floated Monday and was trading at E34 per share on Frankfurt's Neuer Markt, above its offer price of E27. However, the shares had been priced very conservatively for what is considered a sure bet, setting off at the bottom end of their range.

However most shares fell, with blue-chip stocks taking part in the drop as well, after having left the losses mostly to tech shares over the last two weeks.

Industry observers believe the market could continue to decline, representing a healthy return to fundamentals after a period in which the rules appeared to have been suspended for so-called "new-economy" companies.

"Half a year ago it would have seemed rude to ask a company when they expected to make a profit. Now reality has set in again," said Daniel Bieler, European Internet analyst at Nomura. "The old boring accountants are back and are looking at fundamentals. This shakeout is important to clear the air a bit and it will be swift. 'Let's get it over and done with' is the market's mood."

A heavily-traded Vodafone AirTouch (quote: VOD) was one of the hardest-hit of UK tech shares, closing down 14.5 at 285.75.

Among telecoms, BT (quote: BT) was one of the few gainers, bouncing up 26 to close at 1,151p; the company recently announced a massive restructuring plan. Energis (quote: EGS) skidded 214 to 2,501p, while Thus (quote: THUS) tumbled 22.5 to 356.5.

Internet auction site QXL.com (quote: QXL) lost 51 points to close at 237p. Game maker Eidos, which has slid drastically in recent weeks, closed down 15 at 325p. Bellwether e-commerce site lastminute.com declined 5.5 to 152p -- still, however, above its IPO price.

ARM Holdings (quote: ARM) lost 160 to close at 3,068p while handheld computer maker Psion (quote: PON) recovered, gaining 172 to close at 2,802p.

Reuters contributed to this report.

This is not the end of the stock market, but we do have a highly damaging new way of trading. Companies active in this atmosphere are being forced into decisions that favour share holder value but not real business objectives. Go with Tony Westbrook to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

For full coverage of the markets' recent slide, see the Market Mayhem news roundup.

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