* World equity markets extend decline for seventh day
* Debt crisis sends euro zone back into recession
* Middle East tensions support oil prices, Brent hits $111
* Yen sinks to 6-1/2-month low vs U.S. dollar
By Herbert Lash
NEW YORK, Nov 15 Global stocks fell for a
seventh day on Thursday after data showed the euro zone entered
a recession in the third quarter and on fear of the U.S. "fiscal
cliff," while oil prices gained on growing concerns about
violence in the Gaza Strip.
Brent crude oil prices rose toward $111 a barrel as fighting
in the Gaza Strip sparked worries of an escalation in fighting
that could ultimately disrupt oil supplies from the Middle East.
Hamas fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel, killing
three, and Israel launched numerous air strikes across the Gaza
Strip as the military showdown lurched closer to all-out war.
Benchmark Brent crude rose $1.08 to $110.69 a
"I have a hard time seeing (prices) falling back much at the
moment, at least while tension is still high," said Filip
Petersson, an analyst at SEB in Stockholm.
"We would probably need to hear some kind of statements that
indicate the Israelis are stepping down, but I think that's
unlikely to happen at the moment."
The yen tumbled to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar
since late April after the leader of Japan's main opposition
party called for a move toward negative interest rates, sapping
the currency's appeal despite its safe-haven status.
Against the yen, the dollar was up 1.02 percent at
U.S. stocks fell in choppy trading, with the S&P 500 down
for a third day after Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's
biggest retailer, reported disappointing quarterly sales and on
concerns about the fiscal cliff and Europe's debt crisis.
Stocks have struggled to hold on to small gains in recent
days as investors fret the economy could slip into recession if
no budget deal is reached to avoid the fiscal cliff - some $600
billion in spending cuts and tax hikes that take effect in
The S&P 500 is off about 2 percent for the week so far.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 59.67
points, or 0.47 percent, at 12,511.28. The Standard & Poor's 500
Index was down 6.45 points, or 0.48 percent, at 1,349.04.
The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 17.41 points, or
0.61 percent, at 2,829.40.
Shares of Wal-Mart fell 3.7 percent to $68.68 after the
retailer reported quarterly sales rose 3.4 percent, below
analysts' expectations, as it cited weakness in China and Japan,
as well as in the United States.
Disappointing economic data also weighed on stocks and U.S.
oil prices, which fell 60 cents to $85.72 a barrel.
Superstorm Sandy drove new claims for U.S. jobless benefits
to a 1-1/2 year high last week, a sign the deadly storm could
hold back economic growth by leaving tens of thousands of people
temporarily out of work.
A drop in the Philadelphia Federal Reserve's index of
business activity in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region was also tied
to the impact of Sandy, which disrupted business in the area due
to power outages and commuting problems for workers.
In Europe, stocks ended lower, with a key index hitting a
two-month low on the economic data.
The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares
unofficially closed 0.9 percent lower at 1,078.64 points, a
level not seen since early September.
"The global economy faces some severe headwinds. Against
that backdrop we see short-term de-risking of portfolios," said
Abi Oladimeji, head of investment strategy at Thomas Miller
Economic growth in Germany, Europe's largest economy, cooled
to 0.2 percent over the July-September period compared with the
previous three months, while data showed the wider 17-nation
euro zone has slipped back into recession.
Economic output in the euro area fell 0.1 percent in the
third quarter after falling 0.2 percent in the April to June
period, making it the second recession since 2009.
"The double-dip is a fact," said Martin Van Vliet, an
economist at ING Bank. "What you notice is that the recession in
southern Europe is slowly creeping to other countries."
World stocks were on course for a seventh successive day of
losses. MSCI's world equity index fell 0.52
percent at 316.97 points and has now lost over 3.0 percent this
The euro rallied to a two-week high against the yen and also
rose against the dollar, despite the gloomy economic data for
the euro zone.
The euro was up 0.38 percent at $1.2782 from a
previous session close of $1.2734.
The benchmark U.S. Treasury 10-year note was up
3/32 in price to yield 1.5775 percent.