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Asian Markets Trading Lower, European Stocks Gain Ground


Asian markets were lower at the close Wednesday, dragged down by news of weak corporate earnings due to a worsening global economy.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei index lost more than 1.25 percent. The bad news included a lower profit outlook from Inpex, the country's leading natural gas explorer. Markets were also lower in Hong Kong, Sydney, Seoul and Wellington.

World oil prices continue to drop, as investors expect the slowing economy to cut demand for energy. The price of light sweet crude oil for future delivery dropped below $60 a barrel in Singapore for the first time since March 2007. Brent crude futures have fallen to $55 a barrel.

European markets are mixed. The key indexes in London and Paris are up a bit, while the index in Frankfurt is down.

Many officials and investors say they are worried about the precarious financial condition of the U.S. auto industry. Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, is urging Congress to quickly provide Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler with emergency financial assistance.

Pelosi wants lawmakers to quickly pass an amendment to the $700 billion government bailout package that would allow automakers access to the funds slated for banks and financial service firms.

Analysts say General Motors, the largest U.S. car company, might go bankrupt without government help, jeopardizing millions of jobs tied to the industry.

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama and President George Bush discussed providing aid to General Motors, Chrysler and Ford (the so-called "Big Three") when they met at the White House earlier this week.