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World Markets Remain Cautious

  • Tom Rivers

European stocks retreated for a sixth day. Asian markets, however, rose modestly Wednesday, as exporters like Sony Corp. recovered from the previous day's sell-off.

Asian markets rose slightly Wednesday in light trading as traders remained cautious over company earnings.

Major indices in Tokyo and Hong Kong gained three-tenths of a percent on the day.

In Europe, banks continued to be battered by bad news, dragging down other sectors.

Barclays is feeling the cold wind of change. It plans to cut 2,100 jobs across its investment banking and management units; about seven percent of the bank's entire workforce.

Here in London, the British government has announced a plan to help struggling small and medium-sized businesses that are not getting the lines of credit they used to get from commercial banks.

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson said the $29 billion program is crucial and it is being rolled out immediately.

"It addresses the problem at the heart of the credit crunch - finance for viable businesses," he said. "U.K. businesses are the backbone of our economy, so it is vital that the government should act now. We are absolutely determined to do everything we can to support viable companies through this global downturn which reflects the importance of the measures that are going live today alongside the other measures that the government will continue to take in order to get the banks back into proper working order and the rest of the economy brought through this downturn as quickly and as painlessly as possible."

Mandelson says half of the money will come from the Treasury department, the other half from the major banks.

"Run by professional fund managers, it will provide equity investment to companies with viable business models that have exhausted traditional forms of finance. They will be able to use the capital to restructure their balance sheets and invest for growth," he said.

It is similar to a program that has been pushed by the opposition Conservative party but on a smaller scale.

It is a measure that undoubtedly will be followed closely by other countries and it may be adopted elsewhere if it proves to be successful in bridging the current small business loan gap.


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