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European Nations Bolster Economies

Several European nations are propping up banks, trying to cut spending and taking other actions to bolster troubled economies.

Thursday, Irish officials said the the cost of bailing out some of the country's largest banks may be as much as $68 billion, which is more than earlier estimates. The banks fueled Ireland's property boom, but took large losses during the global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, in Spain, a rating agency cut the country's credit rating one level. Moody's made the downgrade on concerns about weak economic growth and worries about the nation's ability to cut spending. The lower credit rating means the country may have to pay higher interest rates to borrow money.

In neighboring Portugal, the government also announced strict budget cuts in response to pressure by the European Union to reduce a large public deficit.

European finance officials said Thursday the eurozone stabilization fund is ready to assist troubled economies if needed. However, they say nations will most likely not have to use the fund after making strict budget reductions.

The austerity measures brought about widespread protests across the European Union Wednesday. Thousands gathered outside the EU in Brussels as lawmakers discussed tougher sanctions against countries breaking budget rules.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.