U.S. stock market indexes were lower in midday trading Monday despite plunging oil prices, after the chairman of the U.S. central bank said the economy was facing "numerous difficulties."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off half of one percent, the S&P 500 fell more than seven-tenths of one percent, and the NASDAQ fell one tenth of one percent.

European stock markets closed sharply lower.  London's Financial Times 100 index tumbled more than two percent (129 points) to end at 5,172, the CAC-40 in Paris dropped almost two percent at 4,061, and the DAX in Frankfurt slid almost two percent to finish at 6,082.

In Asia, Tokyo's Nikkei index fell two percent (256 points), to end the day at 12,755.  In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index plunged four percent (840 points), to close at 21,175.

The price of gold gained almost $2 to trade at $974.24 an ounce.  

The dollar was down against the yen and the euro, after hitting a record low against the euro earlier Tuesday.

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