US employment figures raise recession fears

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The worst US employment data for nearly a year sparked another rout on stock markets today and added to fears of a global recession.

The number of people employed in the world's biggest economy was flat in August, its worst performance since last September.

This disappointing news caused jittery traders to dump stocks, sending the FTSE 100 Index down more than 2%, or 126.6 points lower at 5292, wiping some £33 billion from the value of London's blue chip shares.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average in the US was down 1.5% at the time the London market closed, while the DAX in Germany and the CAC 40 in France shed more than 3%.

Today's gloomy figures heightened fears that the US will lead the world economy back into recession and have undone most of the gains of nearly 6% notched up by the London market previously in the week.

The sharp falls mark a return to the volatile trading patterns of last month when a raft of gloomy economic data from the US and eurozone created panic that the world would descend back into recession and triggered havoc on world markets.

Shares dropped by as much as 15% but had been recovering over the past fortnight until today's crisis of confidence.

Banks were among the biggest fallers, reversing yesterday's gains when the sector had been buoyed by reports it may escape major reform until after the next general election.

Barclays was the market's biggest loser, down 8%, while taxpayer backed Lloyds was 7% lower, with Royal Bank of Scotland down 5%.

Oil prices, which generally reflect confidence in the world economy, also dropped today after recent gains. Brent crude oil was down 2% at one point but recovered to stand 0.5% lower at 113 US dollars a barrel.

Gold, which is seen as a safe haven amid the chaos, was up 3% at 1877 dollars an ounce.

The weak jobs data intensified calls for the US Federal Reserve to embark on a third round of quantitative easing, or money printing, to inject life into its ailing economy.

Max Johnson, a broker at Currency Solutions, said: "Disastrous data for the US, for the dollar and for economies around the world.

"US companies have no confidence in the US economy and no confidence in the country's political leadership, so it's no surprise no jobs are being created.

"QE3 is now surely on the cards. If it fails to act soon, the Fed could do irreparable damage to both the US and global economy."