As Italy's elections results came in Monday, the country appeared headed toward political gridlock, a development that rattled financial markets hoping for a clear result.
A center-left coalition, headed by Pier Luigi Bersani and favored in pre-election polls, looked like it would win the lower house of Parliament, according to partial results.
But in a surprise, the center-right grouping, headed by the former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, appeared to be ahead in the upper house.
And NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reported from Rome that there were other surprises as well:
"The wild-card 5 Star Movement, headed by comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo, is doing better than expected and may become the biggest single party.
"TV network anchors and guests appeared confused and rattled by projections that conflicted with earlier exit polls in a country where many people are hesitant to reveal exactly who they're voting for."
Financial markets were hoping for clarity in how the Italian government would deal with its ongoing economic problems. But the murky result suggested the country will have trouble forming a stable government and could be facing political paralysis.
This made markets jumpy on Monday. Italian stocks were up sharply initially, but then retreated. In the U.S., the Dow Jones lost 216 points, or 1.55 percent. It was the biggest decline so far this year and was linked to the inconclusive Italian election results.
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