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The Independent Online

The FTSE had fallen 52.3 points to 6389.9 at Noon today.

The FTSE had fallen 52.3 points to 6389.9 at Noon today.

The London Stock Exchange took its cue from the US today and headed downwards on the back of overnight falls in New York.

US markets are plagued by the uncertainty about the outcome of the presidential elections and both the Dow Jones industrial average and the technology-dominated Nasdaq Composite both fell sharply overnight.

Inevitably, on this side of the Atlantic, it was tech and telecom stocks that led the direction of the market, with telecoms equipment group Bookham Technology continuing to lose ground.

By mid-morning it was off 9%, or 170p at £16.56.

In the US, investors rattled by the prospect of a prolonged presidential election stalemate sent stocks plunging Thursday after Democrats dug in for a legal fight to win the White House. Shares regained most of the ground by the end of the session, but Wall Street was still anxious while the outcome of the voting remained in doubt.

The Dow Jones industrial average, already down about 100 points, quickly plunged to a loss of 288 points just before 2 p.m. when Vice President Al Gore's campaign chairman, William Daley, and former Secretary of State Warren Christopher told reporters there appeared to be major voting irregularities in Florida, where Tuesday's ballots were being recounted. Daley said the Democrats would seek a hand recount of the ballots cast in four counties.

"It came when the market was already near its low. The harsh language was somewhat upsetting and added to the nervousness," said Steven Goldman, market strategist for Weeden and Co.

Investors interpreted the Democrats' statements as opening the possibility of a further delay in determining who will be the country's next president.

The market recouped most of its losses, but the Dow still closed lower, down 72.81, or less than 1 percent, at 10,834.25.

The Nasdaq composite index slid 144 points before closing with a loss of 31.35, or 1 percent, at 3,200.35.

The broader Standard and Poor's 500 index ended the session down 9.14, or 0.65 percent, at 1,400.14.

One analyst credited the markets' recovery to bargain hunting and to a statement earlier in the day from Attorney General Janet Reno, who said the federal government won't get involved in the recount.

"The market got oversold and people jumped back in to pick up some bargains," said Eugene Mintz, financial markets analyst at Brown Brothers Harriman and Co. "Part of it was probably the fact that the federal government said it can't get involved. There is a little bit of relief in that."

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