Asian, European Stocks Drop Again on Economy Fears

Posted August 19th, 2011 at 1:50 pm (UTC-5)
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Stock markets fell in Asia and Europe on Friday, as investors showed new concern about the struggling U.S. economy and the stability of the European banking system.

Asian stock indexes dropped sharply, and European markets retreated as well, although not as much as on Thursday. U.S. stock indexes were mixed in midday trading, little changed after recording significant losses the day before.

Analysts said that fear had overtaken stock trading, with many investors worried that officials in Europe and the U.S. will not be able to solve vexing economic and government financing issues.

In Europe, the fear is that banks are not strong enough to handle the continent's debt contagion sweeping through its financially troubled governments. Investors are also worried that U.S. politicians will not be able to reach agreement on long-term spending cuts to trim the country's burgeoning debt, or boost the economy enough to cut the nation's unemployment rolls.

The U.S. government reported that unemployment increased last month in more than half of the country's 50 states.

With the global stock sell-off this month, more than $6 trillion has been erased from investors' portfolios.

As they abandon stocks, many investors have been buying gold, briefly pushing the price of the precious metal to a new high Friday above $1,880 an ounce. Its value is up 31 percent this year. Investors have also looked to the Swiss franc as a safe haven from the volatility of stock ownership, and its value has risen recently against the value of 16 other major currencies.

Japan's Nikkei index lost just over two-and-a-half percent at the closing bell, while the Kospi index in Seoul plunged over six percent by the end of its trading session. Indexes in Hong Kong, Sydney, Singapore and Taiwan all closed more than three percent below Thursday's close.

Europe's main indexes lost one percent or more.

The sell-off in Asia and Europe continued Thursday's huge losses on Wall Street. The benchmark Dow Jones, S&P 500 and the NASDAQ indexes all declined between four and five percent Thursday.

Oil prices fell early Friday, slipping below $80 a barrel in New York trading because investors expect lower economic growth will cut the demand and price for energy. But the price for crude oil later rose to more than $83 a barrel as the dollar fell relative to the euro, increasing investors' interest in commodities.