European Markets Tumble, Missiles Strike Pakistan
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JIM LEHRER: And in the other news of this day, another major American corporation reported falling profits. General Electric said its earnings were off nearly 50 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.
The report sent Wall Street tumbling for a time. It rallied a bit later on hopes for an economic stimulus. In the end, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 45 points to close at 8,077, but the Nasdaq rose more than 11 points to close at 1,477.
For the week, the Dow lost 2.5 percent; the Nasdaq fell nearly 3.5 percent.
European markets fell sharply today after Britain confirmed its economy is officially in recession. It shrank 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter, the most since 1980. And the British pound dropped to its lowest against the U.S. dollar since 1985.
In addition, a major labor group, the Trades Union Congress, warned unemployment is headed sharply higher.
NICOLA SMITH, Trades Union Congress: People are losing their jobs, and the rate of unemployment is rising faster than it has done for a very long time. That means at the moment unemployment is just under 2 million. And we predict that, by next summer, probably we’ll be looking at about 2.5 million people out of work.
JIM LEHRER: Recessions have already been confirmed in the United States, Germany and Japan.
The U.S. Veterans Affairs Department came under new fire today for underestimating its needs. The Government Accountability Office told Congress the V.A. has low-balled the cost of treating thousands of veterans. Four years ago, the department reported a $1 billion shortfall. It admitted underestimating the costs of helping wounded vets from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Two apparent U.S. missile attacks killed more than a dozen people in Pakistan today. They were the first strikes since President Obama took office. A Pakistani intelligence official said a U.S. drone aircraft fired the missiles in tribal regions near the Afghan border; he said at least five foreign militants were among the dead.
There was word today a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay has risen to second-in-command of al-Qaida in Yemen. The terror group claimed the man is a Saudi militant held at Guantanamo for six years and then released in 2007. Later, a U.S. counterterror official confirmed that to the Associated Press.
On Thursday, President Obama ordered the Guantanamo jail be closed within a year.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-il reportedly emerged today after a long public absence. State-run media said Kim turned up for talks with a Chinese envoy in the North Korean capital. He was quoted as saying he would commit North Korea to being nuclear-free. The North Korean leader had not met with any outside officials since he suffered a possible stroke in August.