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Many of the world's main stock indexes, including the UK FTSE 100, have posted their biggest falls since the terrorist attacks of 11 September, 2001.
The FTSE 100 index tumbled 5.5% to 5,578.2, wiping £84bn ($163bn) off the value of its listed shares.
"The banks have been reassuring the market over their exposure to US mortgage-related investments, but now we realise there is nothing reassuring about it,"