The global financial crisis may have already pushed Europe into a recession, and experts predict the continent's economy will grow very little or even get smaller next year.

EU officials say the European economy shrank during one three-month period this year, and predict more declines. The slowing economy is likely to bring higher unemployment and higher government deficits.

In the meantime, credit markets appear to be improving after a freeze in lending that helped make the economic crisis worse. A measure of banks willingness to lend to each other and businesses, called the Libor, has hit its best level since mid-September.

The inter-bank interest rate improved as governments around the world gave trillions of dollars in loans, stock purchases, guarantees and other aid to ease bankers' concerns. South Korea, for example, unveiled emergency economic measures Monday, including $11 billion in tax cuts and new spending.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the next U.S. president should be a leader on the global economy and refrain from protectionism. He says the whole world will want to work with the United States on a common economic agenda that boosts the global economy, reforms the financial system, and promotes free trade.

The economic crisis began with America's troubled housing market and has spread throughout the world.

Investors had a mixed reaction to the economic news. U.S. and European markets were mixed while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index moved up more than two percent.

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