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US economic fears dog stocks, euro, oil markets

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[August 21, 2010]  LONDON (AP) -- World markets dropped further Friday as concerns about the U.S. economy continued to weigh on sentiment after yet another batch of disappointing data.

HardwareThose fears had knock-on effects elsewhere, with the euro sliding below $1.27 for the first time in five weeks and oil prices falling to a six-week low.

In Europe, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 20.07 points, or 0.4 percent, at 5,191.22 while Germany's DAX fell 51.07 points, or 0.8 percent, to 6,024.06. The CAC-40 in France was 37.74 points, or 1.1 percent, lower at 3,534.66.

On Wall Street, stocks took a hammering at the open before recovering around half their losses -- soon after the open, the Dow Jones industrial average was trading 72.69 points, or 0.7 percent, at 10,198.52 while the broader Standard & Poor's 500 futures fell 25.78 points, or 2.4 percent, to 1,068.38.

On Thursday, stocks in Europe and the U.S. tumbled after figures showed an unexpected rise increase in weekly U.S. jobless claims to half a million and a big drop in manufacturing activity in the Philadelphia region.

That heavy selling pressure continued into the Asian session -- Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average was a big casualty, closing down 183.30 points, or 2 percent, at 9,179.38.

The worry is that substantially lower economic growth in the U.S. will derail the global recovery from recession.

"There is certainly still an undercurrent of negative sentiment that is keeping markets firmly in check," said David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index.

Investors are not expecting any further insights Friday or much even next week, given the dearth of scheduled economic news, so the current negative mood in equity markets is unlikely to dramatically change.

"With futures prices suggesting that the Dow Jones will head in the same direction as its counterparts in Asia and Europe today, next week's limited array of economic data will surely have to impress if risk appetites are to bounce back," said Neil Mellor, an analyst at Bank of New York Mellon.

Even though the news out of the U.S. has been the broadly disappointing over the last couple of weeks, the dollar does not seem to be suffering at all, particularly against the euro. A risk-averse trading environment usually helps the dollar, which garners support in its supposed status as a safe-haven currency.

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Those concerns were reinforced by reports that Axel Weber, a leading candidate to replace current European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet next year when his term expires, said emergency lending operations to the banks should remain active. That appeared to contradict the hope in the markets that Europe's banks were slowly getting their houses in order.

"The risk-adverse environment continued as the typically hawkish ECB member Weber suggested that stimulus packages would be needed for the rest of the year," said Dave Leaver, a senior trader at GAIN Capital.

By mid-afternoon London time, the euro was down 1.1 percent at $1.2681, just above its earlier low of $1.2678. The last time it fell below $1.27 was on July 14.

The downbeat U.S. economic news is hitting oil prices too as traders price in the prospect of lower demand for crude -- benchmark crude for October delivery was down 69 cents at a six-week low of $73.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.2 percent to 1,775.54, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 index dropped 1.1 percent to 4,430.90 ahead of national elections Saturday.

In China, the Shanghai Composite Index shed 1.7 percent to 2,642.31, with stocks additionally pressured by Beijing's announcement earlier in the week that it would examine the finances of heavily indebted local government agencies set up to invest in real estate and infrastructure.

Elsewhere, Hong Kong's Hang Seng gave up 0.4 percent to 20,984.29. Markets in Singapore, India, and New Zealand also fell while Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia posted moderate gains.

[Associated Press; By PAN PYLAS]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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