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Economic uncertainty drives stocks down worldwide

Latest update : 2008-10-03

After opening down, Wall Street stocks continued to fall despite US Senate passage of a massive financial rescue package. European stock markets closed down despite rallying during the week.

Find out more about the origins of the greatest financial crisis in decades and watch Professor Gerardo Della Paolera explain how we got there.

Read "How to spend $700 billion".


A new batch of weak U.S. data drove fears of slower global growth, driving stocks around the world and oil sharply lower on Thursday, even as the U.S. Congress worked toward passing a revised bill to rescue the ailing financial sector.

U.S. and euro zone government debt rose in a renewed safe-haven rally as reports on jobless claims and factory activity led economists to say the United States was in recession.

The dollar rose to its highest level in over a year against the euro after European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said inflation risks in the euro zone have eased, opening the door to the ECB's first rate cut in five years.

Investor confidence ebbed and commodity prices tumbled amid the bleak economic picture painted by the latest U.S. data, despite the U.S. Senate's approval late on Wednesday of a revised $700 billion plan to bail out banks holding bad debt.

The deteriorating economic outlook led investors to dump gold and other precious metals as the dollar firmed. Oil fell more than $4 to settle just under $94 a barrel.

The Senate's approval of the rescue plan initially reassured European stock markets, but U.S. stocks fell sharply on the economy and on jitters over passage of the bailout, with the broad S&P index closing down 3 percent.

The grim U.S. news dragged down stock markets throughout Latin America, as well as Europe, led by a more than 7 percent drop in Brazil's blue-chip Bovespa index.

The U.S. government reported the number of people filing for new jobless benefit claims rose to a seven-year high in the latest week and factory orders showed a steeper-than-expected drop in August.

The data shows how much damage the credit crisis has cast on the U.S. and global economies, said Alan Lancz, president of Alan B. Lancz & Associates Inc in Toledo, Ohio.

"It's almost a perfect storm and it's starting to hit home," Lancz said.

The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 348.62 points, or 3.22 percent, at 10,482.45. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index shed 46.81 points, or 4.03 percent, at 1,114.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 92.68 points, or 4.48 percent, at 1,976.72.

Economic bellwethers were hard hit on Wall Street.

General Electric slid 9.6 percent to $22.15 after the company, seeking to raise cash, said it priced a share offering below the stock's closing price on Wednesday.

Insurance stocks, led by Hartford Financial, Principal Financial and MetLife, fell after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid raised the question of whether an unnamed, well-known insurer could be in financial trouble. Hartford shares fell 32 percent, Metlife slid 14.9 percent, and Principal Financial shed 16.3 percent.

European stocks fell on the U.S. economic data, knocking down mining and industrial stocks.

ArcelorMittal sank 9.3 percent, Rio Tinto dropped 7.9 percent and Siemens lost 4.6 percent.

The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares closed 1.3 percent lower at 1,058.81 points, after being ahead earlier in the session. The index is down 30 percent in 2008.

"The U.S. is tipping into recession," said Marc Touati, economist at Global Equities in Paris, who held out a bit of hope that all was not lost. "But we're getting to the end of the tunnel on the credit front, and if the rescue plan goes through, it will certainly help the economy."

Money market stress eased in Europe but lending rates for overnight loans among banks remained above central bank targets, reflecting a strong aversion to counterparty risk and how economic strains are making lending costlier.

The U.S. commercial paper market contracted dramatically for a third straight week as business lending and borrowing effectively shut down, Federal Reserve data showed Thursday.

The overnight rate for the London interbank offered rate in dollars fell more than a full point to 2.68125 percent, while euro overnight rates also eased.

But longer maturity rates jumped, with benchmark three-month rates -- which now cover the year-end period -- fixed higher in dollars and euros.

The benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note rose 26/32 to yield 3.64 percent, while the 2-year U.S. Treasury note gained 11/32 to yield 1.64 percent.

Gold fell more than 4 percent as investors sold bullion to cover losses on other markets. Silver plunged more than 12 percent in sympathy, while platinum shed over 5 percent to its weakest level since January 2006 after U.S. carmakers reported a fresh drop in auto sales in September on Wednesday.

December gold futures settled down $43 at $844.30 an ounce in New York.

The dollar rose against a basket of major currencies, with the U.S. Dollar Index up 1.04 percent, but against the yen, the dollar slipped 0.58 percent at 105.17.

The euro fell 1.60 percent at $1.3795.

Oil fell as turmiol in financial markets stoked concerns about fuel demand and sent investors seeking safer havens.

U.S. crude settled down $4.56 at $93.97, while London Brent fell $4.77 to settle at $90.56 a barrel.

Asian stocks fell. The MSCI index of Asia-Pacific stocks outside Japan fell 1.2 percent, while Tokyo's Nikkei average dropped 1.9 percent to end at its lowest close in three years.


Date created : 2008-10-03