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Economic Outlook Slides in Europe and Asia

  • Tom Rivers

European stock markets fell Friday after a mixed performance in Asia. A weak outlook for oil prices depressed global markets as share of crude hits its lowest level in five years.

European stocks are generally down again as energy shares made investors skittish.

Earlier in Asia, Japan's central bank slashed its key interest rate down to just a tenth of one percent. The Japanese government predicts the nation's economy will experience negative growth through 2010.

The economic storm there is badly affecting exports. Various media reports out of Japan say Toyota, the country's top-ranked automaker, will announce its first-ever operating loss next week.

Toyota sales have nosedived due to the soaring value of the yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive overseas.

Here in Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown held his final monthly news conference of the year. While not ignoring the tough times ahead, he underlined that getting out of this downturn will only be accomplished through coordinated, global action.

"So if 2008 was the year we confronted the global downturn, 2009 must be the year that the world comes together to invest and build a prosperous future while giving real help to families and businesses now. And the countries that continue to invest for the future through the downturn, will be the countries that emerge stronger in the future," he said.

Mr. Brown says in Britain and elsewhere, the right things are being done right now to combat this difficult recession but he stressed it will take time to see results work through the system.

"Yes, it is unfortunate that we have been the victim of a global downturn. It is unfortunate that it spread from being a financial crisis into affecting all the sectors of our economy. But we are in a strong position to deal with this because we have cut interest rates, we have injected money into the economy, we are a competitive economy and over the next few months you will see for many people a result of the fall in oil prices and the fall also in food prices that peoples' standards of living, for many, many people will go up," said Brown.

Although oil prices have tumbled from nearly $150 to $40 a barrel in the past six months, Mr. Brown warns that price volatility will remain a pressing challenge.

Adding to the gloom was a prediction by a top banking association that said the worst has yet to come for the world economy.

The Institute of International Finance (IIF), which represents more than 375 of the world's major banks and financial institutions, said the global economy would shrink by 0.4 percent in 2009 after two-percent growth this year.

Charles Dallara, managing director of the IIF, called the current situation "the most severe, globally synchronized recession in modern economic history" as he presented the report at a news conference in Washington on Thursday.

Powerhouse economies - including the United States, the 15-nation eurozone and Japan - that are now in recession were forecast to contract a hefty 1.4 percent amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

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