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World Markets Gain Despite More Corporate Lay-Offs


Despite a raft of new corporate job losses, world stock markets are higher due to indicators out of the United States and China that some say show the global economic downturn starting to stabilize.

With large annual losses looming, Panasonic plans to cut 15,000 employees during the next year and shutdown 27 plants worldwide. That represents about five percent of its huge workforce.

And carmaker Mazda plans to cut 500 more jobs in Japan as the global slowdown continues to hit the auto industry hard.

But not all the market-affecting news was bad. Overseas traders liked a surprise jump in U.S. homes sales in December and a report pointing to a leveling off in the drop of Chinese manufacturing.

Both of these helped the Tokyo index to close nearly three percent higher on the day.

The European markets also gained ground.

But the big worry for many in London remains the shrinking job market. In Ireland, a new report shows the unemployment rate there rose to 9.2 percent last month. That is the highest level in 11 years.

Speaking in the British parliament, Prime Minister Gordon Brown again stressed that putting up trade barriers now in the hope of saving jobs would only make matters worse.

"The biggest danger that the world faces is a retreat into protectionism," he said. "... It is all the more reason why first of all we should sign the Doha agreement and that will feature on the G-20 agenda. Secondly, we should make sure that every country is analyzed for what it is doing by the World Trade Organization to prevent protectionism, and it is also absolutely clear that we should agree as a world on a monetary and fiscal stimulus that will take the world out of its depression."

London will play host to a summit of leaders from the so-called Group of 20 industrialized countries in early April.

On Thursday, all eyes will be on interest rates, with the Bank of England expected to cut aggressively once again while the more cautious European Central Bank may decide to hold off for now.

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