There was more volatility on world stock markets Friday with the Dow industrials swinging between gains and losses. VOA's Barry Wood reports that the while the Dow closed lower on the day it was up on the week.
The Dow Jones industrials lost 127 points Friday to a finish at 8,852 points. However, for the week the closely watched index was up nearly five percent, its best gain in over three years. European exchanges closed higher, following through on the sharp gains on Wall Street the previous day.
Commodities were lower as investors continued to fret over the prospects for a steep global slowdown and recession in the United States. Gold lost seven percent for the week and has been down for seven consecutive trading sessions. Oil was up from its 14-month low, but still closed down eight percent on the week. Oil ended Friday at just under 72 dollars a barrel.
Consumer confidence in the United States, as measured by the University of Michigan index, fell in September by the most on record. The index fell to 57, down from 70 in August. In addition single-family housing starts hit a 26-year low in September.
Chris Ripkey, chief financial economist at the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi in New York, says one should treat the latest data with caution. "I'd be a little bit careful about the U.S. because the recession began in January or February and we're already nine or ten months along. I don't think it is going to last that much longer. In other words, the spectacular decline in consumer confidence today, that's not making me lengthen or deepen the call for this recession," he said.
Ripkey, speaking on Bloomberg Television, is not alone in believing the U.S. economy is in recession. But as yet there have not been two consecutive quarters of negative growth, the usual definition of a recession.
There were tentative signs that credit markets were becoming unfrozen. Ten days after a coordinated central bank interest rate cut, and seven days after a pledge of concerted North American, Japanese and European action to stabilize markets, overnight bank lending rates in London registered some decline.
That is interpreted as a good sign as the gap between the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and the three-month US Treasury bond yield had reached very high levels over the past few weeks.