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A major European stock index falls into a bear market.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 index ended the day in bear market territory, a bleak reflection of the state of the European economy.

The benchmark index, which includes large companies from 17 European countries, like Britain’s Shell, Switzerland’s Nestlé and Germany’s Volkswagen, fell 2.3 percent on Friday, pushing the index down about 21 percent from its Jan. 5 peak.

A fall of more than 20 percent from a high is the common definition of a bear market, a rare and grim signal for stock markets. The S&P 500 slipped into a bear market in June.

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Surveys of corporate purchasing managers published on Friday darkened the mood of European investors. The polls implied another month of contraction in business activity in the eurozone, suggesting that “recession is inevitable,” Katharina Koenz, a senior economist at Oxford Economics, wrote in a report. “The decline was led by manufacturing, as the sector continues to suffer from sky-high energy costs, but the services sector also showed marked weakness.”

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