Italy's stunned political parties searched for a way forward on Tuesday after an inconclusive election gave none of them a parliamentary majority and threatened prolonged instability and a renewal of the European financial crisis.

The results, notably the dramatic surge of the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement of comic Beppe Grillo, left the center-left bloc with a majority in the lower house but without the numbers to control the upper chamber, the Senate.

Financial markets fell sharply at the prospect of a stalemate that reawakened memories of the crisis that pushed Italy's borrowing costs toward unsustainably high levels and brought the euro zone to the brink of collapse in 2011.