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FTSE closes 3 per cent lower on Aviva fears

The FTSE 100 closed over 3 per cent lower today at 3,526.41 with shares in the nation’s largest insurers plunging on news of Aviva’s losses.

The UK benchmark opened lower today at 3,632.88 after enjoying a strong rally on Wednesday with caution ahead of interest rate decisions in the UK and Europe.

Insurance giant Aviva soon dragged on the index with shares losing 19 per cent to 230.25p in morning trades after posting losses of £885m for 2008, a year it described as “tumultuous”.

The company continued to extend its losses throughout the afternoon following the Bank of England’s sixth rate cut to 0.5 per cent and closed down 33 per cent at 189p.

This sparked a sell off across the sector with Legal & General falling over 28 per cent to 26.60p, Prudential down 20 per cent to 221p, Standard Life down 14.82 per cent to 138.50p and Friends Provident down 13.5 per cent to 60.70p.

Banks didn’t fare much better with Barclays closing lower by 24 per cent to 65.50p. Lloyds Banking Group was more than 15 per cent further into the red at 40.30p while Royal Bank of Scotland fell over 8 per cent to 20.80p

Declining crude and copper prices dragged oil and mining companies lower with Royal Dutch Shell closing down over 2 per cent to 1,419p and BHP Billiton down over 5 per cent to 1,107p.

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