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European Markets Up Slightly, Financial Concerns Remain


Following the trend in Asia, European markets rose modestly on Monday amid hopes of a renewed U.S. auto sector lifeline from the White House and another possible U.S. interest rate cut this week. But the mood is tempered by concerns about possible effects from an alleged billion dollar fraudulent investment scheme on Wall Street.

It is jittery and volatile once again on the European markets with traders trying to find a definitive direction.

On the plus side, hopes of the Bush administration throwing the big three U.S. automakers a short-term loan is helping the markets, as is the anticipation of another U.S. Federal Reserve interest rate cut on Tuesday.

Also helpful, an announcement by China of a multibillion dollar plan to boost consumer confidence there.

But on the downside, investors are looking for overseas damage in the wake of a Wall Street investment scandal involving a former Nasdaq stock exchange chief . Bernard Madoff is accused of defrauding investors of some $50 billion.

In Britain, Banco Santander could stand to lose $3 billion while the Royal Bank of Scotland could see $600 million evaporate if those scandal fears are realized.

The head of trading at CMC Markets here in London, Gary Thomson said given currently tighter market conditions, clients were likely asking more questions about their investments with Madoff.

"Everybody now, particularly when we have come out of a boom period we have and we are coming into what is quite a tough period, everybody gets a little bit more cautious and takes a closer look at what is going on. And that is one of the reasons of course that this scheme has been found," he said.

On the currency markets, the possible U.S. interest rate cut is weakening the dollar, while the British pound is taking a battering. It is now at its lowest level ever against the euro. With the rate hovering around the parity level, some are wondering whether now might be a good time for Britain to join the euro. But the government's Europe minister Caroline Flint did not think that would be such a good idea right now.

"I think it would be wrong to suggest that somehow the financial crisis in itself means that we should move to the euro. I do not think there really is evidence for that. We living as I said in exceptional, unique times where it would be wrong to make a judgment based on the environment we are living and working through at the moment," he said.

On the oil markets light, sweet crude for January delivery is up just over two dollars a barrel to above the $48 mark due to expectations that OPEC might announce a production cut later this week.

Also later this week, a raft of new U.S. economic indicators will be released that will be watched closely by the traders overseas.

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