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Tories gain but fail to take majority, hung Parliament

LONDON — After one of the most passionately contested elections in decades, Britain faced the stalemate of a hung Parliament on Friday, with no party likely to command an outright majority despite significant gains by the opposition Conservatives and damaging losses for Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

But as the country braced for days of wrangling to form a new government, Brown signaled that he would not immediately step down, even though his party lost its majority, shedding at least 88 seats in the House of Commons while the opposition Conservatives surged ahead with a 94-seat gain.

“The election results are likely to show there is no clear majority for any single party,” Brown said in a statement. In effect, the results brought an abrupt and messy end to 13 years of Labour’s majority.

“As I said last night, it is my duty as prime minister to take all steps to ensure Britain has a strong, stable and principled government,” Brown said.

The Conservatives, led by David Cameron, were set to win the largest number of seats but not an outright majority. Labour, seeking a fourth term, lagged in second place while the third party, the left-of-center Liberal Democrats, failed to make the gains forecast before Thursday’s vote.

The outcome plunged the political elite into frantic calculations to devise an alliance that could produce a parliamentary majority, but the results offered no easy computations. Barring a last-minute swing, the only obvious arrangement yielding a majority would come from an alliance of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats — but they have profound ideological differences.

Dow’s rapid fall of 1,000 points rattles traders and investors

A bad day in the stock market turned into one of the most terrifying moments in Wall Street history on Thursday with a brief, 1,000-point plunge that recalled the panic of 2008.

It lasted just 16 minutes but left Wall Street experts and ordinary investors alike struggling to come to grips with what had happened — and fearful of where the markets might go from here.

At least part of the sell-off appeared to be linked to trader error, perhaps an incorrect order routed through one of the nation’s exchanges. Many of those trades may be reversed so investors do not lose money on questionable transactions.

But the speed and scale of the plunge — it was the largest intraday decline on record — seemed to feed fears that the financial troubles gripping Europe were at last reaching across the Atlantic. Amid the rout, new signs of stress emerged in the credit markets. European banks seemed to be growing wary of lending to each other, suggesting the debt crisis was entering a more dangerous phase.

Traders and Washington policy makers struggled to keep up as the Dow Jones industrial average fell 1,000 points shortly after 2:30 p.m. and then mostly rebounded in a matter of minutes.

The day’s uncertainty pushed the euro to its lowest level in 14 months, slipping to $1.2529 to the dollar at one point. The dollar’s rise, and the burgeoning fear of a slowdown in global growth, sent commodities prices lower. Crude oil fell $2.81 to $77.16 a barrel.

McCartney, CDs and boomers feed indie label’s growth

In April, Concord Music Group, an independent label, announced two deals, one to distribute Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles catalog and another to buy Rounder Records, the roots label from Boston whose “Raising Sand” won a Grammy for best album in 2009.

Those two additions are the latest in a years-long period of growth for Concord, which is based in Beverly Hills.

He thinks people will pay for that music, too, especially the fans he calls the adult audience. Concord has focused its attention on that group, trying to lure people less inclined to chase the latest pop sensation and more interested in music Barros describes as “timeless and authentic” — more McCartney and less Justin Bieber.

While the company has suffered less than the major labels from illegal file-sharing, fewer stores now sell CDs, and those that do often devote less shelf space and push out smaller genres.