European stocks fell Friday ahead of an expected drop on Wall Street, as investors were disheartened by weak corporate and economic figures and confirmation that Britain plunged into recession at the end of last year.
The past 24 hours have seen Microsoft announce its first mass layoffs in its 34-year history, Samsung report its first ever quarterly loss and the US report more weak unemployment and housing figures. And as investors came to their desks Friday morning, official data showed Britain's economy shrank 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter - the sharpest quarterly downturn in almost 30 years.
Britain's benchmark FTSE 100 index fell 1.6 percent to 3,985.45 in afternoon European trading. Other indexes fared even worse, with Germany's DAX down 2.8 percent at 4,102.57 and the French CAC 40 shedding 2.9 percent at 2,787.15.
Wall Street was expected to open lower Friday, extending a 3.5 percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Thursday. Futures indicated the Dow would open 210 points lower at 7,882 and the Standard & Poor's 500 down 22.70 points at 802.80.