Europe's main stock markets fell heavily on Monday in a poor start to the week as investors reacted to news of sliding business confidence in eurozone economic engine Germany, dealers said.
In late morning deals, London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares dropped 0.60 percent to 5,817.57 points, Frankfurt's DAX reversed 0.75 percent to 7,395.76 points and in Paris the CAC 40 shed 1.17 percent to 3,489.32.
Madrid stocks sank 1.63 percent, with the Spanish government dogged by ongoing bailout speculation, while Milan declined by 1.42 percent.
In foreign exchange trade, the euro eased to $1.2908 from $1.2985 late in New York on Friday. Gold prices fell to $1,757.55 an ounce on the London Bullion Market, down from $1,784.50.
"European financial markets dropped on fears about faltering global growth, highlighted by a weaker than expected German Ifo survey which reminded investors that the euro area's strongest and largest economies are feeling the heat of the debt crisis," said ETX Capital trader Ishaq Siddiqi.
"The data also raised fears that Germany could enter a recession by early next year, pressuring the euro currency against the dollar.
"On top of that, the uncertain situation in Spain rattles nerves with the country expected to present a new structural reform programme at the end of this week and announce results of its bank stress tests," he added.
German business confidence fell for the fifth month in a row in September to the lowest level since February 2010, data showed on Monday, suggesting that the eurozone debt crisis was increasingly hitting the German economy.
The Ifo economic institute's closely watched business climate index dropped to 101.4 points in September from 102.3 points in August.
"September's fall in the German Ifo business survey is a reminder that even the eurozone's strongest economies are suffering from a severe economic downturn," said Jennifer McKeown, analyst at Capital Economics research group.
The Ifo data dashed market expectations for an unchanged reading, according to analysts polled by Dow Jones Newswires.
Markets were already spooked after the leaders of Germany and France clashed on Saturday over plans to monitor Europe's crisis-hit banks.
"That poor Ifo has not helped sentiment which was already pretty negative on the weekend disagreements between (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel and (French President Francois) Hollande over the timetable for banking union," said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets trading group.
"What the Ifo has done is re-focus the markets back on the economic fundamentals and when the engine of the European economy appears to be heading for stall speed then markets worry about the outlook for growth."
At the weekend, Merkel and Hollande differed over a key plank of crisis-fighting: tighter checks on the European banking sector.
"I support a banking union, it is an important measure and we must proceed step-by-step," Hollande told reporters following a meeting in Germany, while stressing that such a framework should be in place "the earlier the better."
Merkel, for her part, said Berlin also backed European oversight of lenders but urged a more cautious approach, saying haste could prove costly.
While France would like to hand the European Central Bank power to supervise all 6,000 eurozone banks from January, Germany would like it to keep an eye just on big banks and is in little hurry.
Asian stock markets mostly closed lower on Monday as the recent rally fuelled by central banks' stimulus plans petered out, while there were fears over Greece's ability to meet requirements to get more bailout cash.
Global markets have been boosted in September by central bank economic stimulus announcements in the United States, Europe and Japan.