StockMarketWire.com - Shares in London opened sharply lower after big falls on the Asian markets earlier today.

Worries about the slowdown in the Chinese economy intensified and its main index, the Shanghai Composite, dropped a further 8.4% following the big losses last week. It has now fallen 30% since the middle of June.

In Asia the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo was down 895.15 points, or 4.61%, at 18,540.68 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong had fallen 1,112.87 points, or 4.97%, to 21,296.75.

A short time ago, the FTSE 100 was down 143.82 points, or 2.32%, to 6,043.83. The FTSE 250 had plunged 433.62 points, or 2.57%, to 16,443.

There were no risers in early trading among the FTSE 100 companies.

This followed last week's big falls when the FTSE 100 fell by 5.2%, or 363 points. On Friday the index closed 2.8% lower, while there were similar falls in both Paris and Frankfurt. On Wall Street the Dow Jones, Nasdaq and S&P 500 indexes all dropped more than 3% on Friday.

Shares in both Paris and Frankfurt were down more than 3% in early trading.

EARLY HIGHLIGHTS

Punch Taverns (PUB) was down 0.4% at 126.5p on news it had reached agreement to sell 158 pubs which are not core to its estate for £53.5m to NewRiver Retail, a leading Real Estate Investment Trust focused on the UK retail sector. This agreement is consistent with Punch's strategy to sell the non-core estate at a rate of approximately 200 pubs per year.

Costain (COST), the engineering solutions provider, was down 1.1% at 365.63p after it announced it had been awarded a £605m contract for the East works package of the Thames Tideway Tunnel in London in a joint venture with VINCI Construction Grands Projets and Bachy Soletanche.

Headlam (HEAD), the floorcoverings distributor, rose 0.6% to 473p after reporting that operating profits had risen 14.9% to £13.0m in the six months to the end of June.

Metals miner, Glencore (GLEN), followed up recent heavy falls by dropping a further 5.41% to 149.98p.

Platinum producer, Lonmin (LMI), was also down again. It was at 36.29p, off 5.7%.

Story provided by StockMarketWire.com