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Swine Flu Hurts Mexican Stocks, Currency

Concerns over swine flu weighed heavily on Mexican stocks as well as the national currency Monday while the influenza outbreak's financial impact appeared mixed in the United States and elsewhere.

Already battered by the global economic downturn, Mexico's economy is not immune to financial fallout from swine flu. Amid a rising death toll in the country hardest-hit by the influenza virus, millions of Mexicans are staying at home in the capital and elsewhere, leading to a pronounced dip in economic activity in recent days.

To make matters worse, many nations are advising their citizens to avoid traveling to Mexico, which could have a profound impact on the country's vital tourism sector.

"Personally, now, I would think hard about non-essential travel to parts of Mexico that are involved in this outbreak," said acting head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Richard Besser.

Mexico's main stock index fell six percent in afternoon trading. The Mexican Peso was down more than three percent against the U.S. dollar.

U.S. financial markets also opened lower but regained some ground after ailing American carmaker General Motors unveiled a long-awaited restructuring plan. U.S. airline, cruise ship, and other tourism-related stocks fared poorly Monday, while companies that produce vaccines, masks, and skin-cleansing agents saw stocks rally.

Financial markets closed lower in Hong Kong and Paris, but moderately higher in Tokyo, Frankfurt, and London.