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US Markets Volatile Amid Uncertainty Over Financial Rescue Plan

US stocks closed down slightly amid continuing uncertainty whether Congress will approve the $700-billion line of credit that would allow the government to take bad loans off the books of US-based financial institutions. VOA's Barry Wood has more.

Markets were volatile Wednesday as the Senate debated a modified financial rescue bill that most analysts predict will win approval in that chamber. Action in the House of Representatives comes later and follows the surprise defeat of a slightly different version on Monday.

Jack Reed, a Democrat Senator from Rhode Island, spoke on the Senate floor in favor of the measure.

"We are in the midst of a terrible, terrible economic crisis," said Senator Reed, "The American people are justifiably outraged that they have been put in this position where they must put up $700 billion to stabilize our financial system and indeed the global financial system."

While market participants awaited this week's votes in the Senate and House, the Dow Jones Industrials Wednesday closed 20 points lower at 10,831. The Nasdaq index was down 22 points. Most European stock markets closed higher. Oil was down $2 at under $99 a barrel.

With European banks feeling some pressure, and modest bailouts being announced by various monetary authorities, the euro currency continued to lose ground against the dollar. The euro traded at $1.40, which was nearly a 12-month high for the dollar. The British pound continued to weaken, closing in London at $1.76.33. Gold gained $6 to $887 an ounce.

As the debate over Congressional action on bad loans went on, President Bush's first Treasury secretary, Paul O'Neil, voiced opposition to the financial rescue. O'Neil, Treasury secretary in 2001 and 2002, said the proposal being considered is crazy and will have awful consequences for the US economy. Before coming to Washington, O'Neil was the head of Alcoa, a large aluminum producer. His critique of the bailout is based on what he called excessive government intrusion into the private sector of the economy.