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News Briefs

Markets Struggling Amid Uncertainty, Fatigue

THE WASHINGTON POST

Stock prices fell Thursday for the fourth consecutive trading day since the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, dragging all the major indexes to their lowest levels in more than two years amid a climate of investor uncertainty and sheer human fatigue.

As disaster-related costs continued to climb for airlines, insurance firms and other companies, it became clear that the the already weak U.S. economy had been damaged and may be contracting. And the prospect of an open-ended military operation against an unclear foe helped drive the Dow Jones industrial average down more than 380 points or 4.4 percent, bringing the index down nearly 13 percent in less than a week.

Other economic indicators hit traders Thursday like rabbit punches: Housing construction slid sharply in August. The National Retail Federation released pessimistic sales forecasts for the final three months of the year. Corporations issued earnings warnings, planned more layoffs and prepared for losses amid a landscape of empty hotels, malls and theme parks.

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, in his first public comments since the attacks, acknowledged Thursday on Capitol Hill that “much economic activity ground to a halt last week.” The short-term economic outlook remains unclear, he said.

Blair Signals Britain’s Support

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Prime Minister Tony Blair signaled complete British support Thursday for evolving American plans to confront exiled Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, saying international backing for a decisive response to “the evil of mass terrorism” was growing stronger.

After meeting President Bush during a hastily arranged visit to the White House, Blair relayed his country’s sympathy for the vast loss of American lives in the terrorist attacks last week, which also left more than 200 British nationals missing and presumed dead.

“We have to bring to account those responsible and then we have to set about at every single level and in every way that we can dismantling the apparatus of terror and eradicating the evil of mass terrorism in our world. And I know America and Britain and all of our allies will stand united together in that task,” Blair said.

Britain has long been the United States' closest ally, playing a crucial role in the American-led coalition that defeated Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces in the 1991 Gulf War and continuing to participate in air patrols of the no-fly zones over Iraq.

Blair reaffirmed that special role during a strategy session and working dinner at the White House last night. Afterward, he told reporters that Britain was determined to stand with the United States as Americans stood with the British during the Nazi blitz of London during World War II.