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August 18, 2011

Global Stocks Fall on US Recession, European Debt Worries

by Mil Arcega

Global Stocks ended the week lower as fresh worries over a possible U.S. recession and Europe's debt crisis roiled markets anew. The inability of political leaders on both continents to deal with the crisis is adding to the volatility.

Renewed worries about the health of the global economy produced another roller coaster ride Friday in financial markets.  

Asian shares took a beating. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell three percent, while Japan's Nikkei lost more than two-and-a-half percent.

The main indexes in Europe extended losses from the previous day - declining more than one percent as the trading day closed.  

Howard Wheeldon, a senior strategist at BGC partners, said, "At the moment markets, when they don't see the potential for growth, they look back on themselves and when fear and the lack of understanding comes and where the politicians are going - you put all of that together - markets just run away and that's basically what we are seeing."

Wall Street added to its losses this week, following warnings from investment bank Morgan Stanley that the United States and the 17 nations that use the euro may be on the brink of a recession.

Eric Green, chief economist at TD Securities, said the U.S. economy may already be shrinking.

"With an economy operating around stall speed, you can figure anywhere between one percent and two percent, any hiccup, any shock is enough to put it into recession, so that the risk is that if things go awry in Europe, it will eventually feed through into the U.S.," he said.

Green says he's not feeling very optimistic. He blames eroding business and public confidence on the recent political drama in Washington over the U.S. debt - and the ineffective response this week by EU leaders on a debt crisis that now threatens Italy and Spain.

"What you're seeing is a crisis of confidence here and a crisis of confidence in Europe, the effects of which are now coalescing into a very rapid slowing in the economy I have never seen in my 20 years of doing this - an economy losing so much momentum so quickly, and that's worrisome," said Green.

Prospects for a slowing global economy sent oil prices below $80 a barrel. Gold hit another high Friday - above $1,880 dollars an ounce.  And the Dow lost another one-and-a-half percent Friday -  to close at 10,818 points.