``Stock markets and the single currency fell sharply as Standard and Poor's cut France's AAA rating. Italy saw its long-term rating drop by two notches, along with Spain, Portugal and Cyprus. Austria, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia had their ratings lowered by one notch... It represents a further loss of confidence in the single currency and the European Union's ability to rescue indebted eurozone members... The agency's move also threatens to torpedo the main European bail-out fund set up to support struggling countries such as Greece and Portugal.''

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