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Financial Markets Remain on Edge as System Shows More Strain From Credit Crunch


Wall Street closed up on the week but investors remained focused on the continuing plight of Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest US investment bank. VOA's Barry Wood reports that other financial stocks were also down.

Lehman Brothers stock was down another 14 percent on Friday. The shares of the once esteemed firm lost 77 percent of their value over the past five trading days. Overall, stock prices were up over one and a half percent on the week.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the person directing the government's response to the ongoing credit crisis, said Friday that he is adamantly opposed to using taxpayer money to bail out Lehman. Six months ago the Treasury and Federal Reserve committed taxpayer money to the rescue of the Bear Stearns investment bank and last week he organized a government takeover of Fannie Mae, America's dominant home loan institution.

American International Group Inc. (AIG), the big global insurer, also experienced a run on its shares Friday, losing 30 percent of its value. Merrill Lynch, the big brokerage firm, was down 12 percent.

Mohammad El-Arian of the Pimco bond trading firm says the global financial system is being restructured as big U.S. based firms seek to raise capital to compensate for the losses sustained from the mortgage loan debacle of last year. "The world (beginning in August 07) changed very quickly. And it caught the financial system off-side. And it simply didn't have enough capital to support all the assets that were on the books, all the leverage in the system, if you like. So, the best choice has been to raise more capital," he said.

El-Arian spoke on CNBC Television. Financial institutions worldwide have registered losses approximating 500 billion dollars over the past year. Alan Greenspan, the former US central bank chief, says the financial system and the economy as a whole are not likely to regain health until slumping US home prices recover.

Other indicators in financial markets this week were more positive to the US economy. Despite a hurricane approaching the Gulf Coast center of the U.S. oil industry, oil prices continued to fall, closing at barely over $101 an ounce. Since their peak in mid-July oil prices have fallen by about 30 percent. In addition, the dollar has rebounded dramatically against the euro and the British pound. Despite falling somewhat on Friday, the dollar is up 12 percent against the continental currencies in just the past two weeks.