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LONDON (AP) — Concerns over the financial health of Europe's banks and the state of the U.S. economy sent stocks sharply lower Tuesday, a day after the Federal Reserve's pledge to keep extremely low interest rates for two more years temporarily calmed market jitters.
Shares in French banks took a particular pummeling in mid-afternoon trading on the Paris stock exchange on renewed market worries over France's bond rating and the European debt crisis. French bank Societe Generale's shares plunged more than 20 percent at one point, while stock in BNP Paribas was off nearly 10 percent and Credit Agricole fell more than 14 percent.
Investors were fleeing French bank shares despite reassurances from government officials and rating agencies that France's triple A credit rating is not under threat.
Despite the Fed's surprise announcement Tuesday that it would likely keep its Fed funds rate at near zero percent through 2013 to help the ailing U.S. economy, stocks have taken another pounding. Any euphoria at Tuesday's close more than vanished as investors fretted about the global economy and the banking system, particularly Europe's.
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