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U.S. to pump $250 billion into banks

The United States will pump $250 billion into its banks, following similar measures in Europe, but data showed the threat of recession has not been banished even if a financial sector meltdown has.

Major European economies showed signs of flagging output and falling business confidence, but smaller countries also suffered acutely. Iceland sought to save its economy at loan talks in Moscow, while its stock market plunged 76%.

Under the Treasury plan, about half the total funds is likely to go to the top nine US banks to get them lending to each other again, people familiar with the scheme said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in an article in the Wall Street Journal that the measures constituted a broad attempt to end the crisis, which began with a US housing market collapse and now threatens industry and jobs worldwide.

“These steps will allow us to restore more normal market functioning and encourage private capital to further support the reinvigoration of financial markets,” he wrote.

The Treasury will buy stakes in Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of New York Mellon Corp, said two sources speaking anonymously.

Media reports said State Street Corp and Merrill Lynch would also receive a capital injection.

Similar moves in Europe helped restore confidence among investors on Monday.

London, Berlin, Paris and others pledged more than €1 trillion ($1.36 trillion) in direct capital injections for banks and to underwrite lending between banks that has all but frozen, choking off funds that drive business and industry.

“Day The Markets Breathed Again,” ran the headline in Britain's Guardian newspaper above a photograph of the London City skyline, caught in a golden twilight.

Japan joined the global push, saying it could inject public funds into regional banks to make sure small firms can get cash.

The Bank of Japan said it would hold an extraordinary meeting from 7:30 a.m. EDT to consider ways of improving its operations to keep financial markets stable.

Even the Gulf with its oil revenues is acting. The United Arab Emirates will pump 70 billion dirhams ($19 billion) of emergency funding into its banking sector.

“We see light at the end of the tunnel, but we are not there yet,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told a news conference.

Stock markets gave a thumbs up to government action. Japan's Nikkei surged more than 14% - the biggest one-day gain in its history - while European shares rose around 5%.

“Investors are peeping out of their bomb shelters,” said Sean Callow, currency strategist at Westpac.

Many stock markets shed as much as 20% last week as panic gripped and experts said while financial meltdown may have been averted, the threat of a wide and deep recession had not.

German investor sentiment declined sharply this month, the heavyweight ZEW research institute survey showed, although many responses were given before Berlin's bank package was announced.

“The perspectives for the economic development in Germany have significantly deteriorated,” the ZEW said in a statement.

The French economy contracted 0.1% in the third quarter, the Bank of France said, cutting its earlier forecast and providing a grim assessment of the business climate.

And British inflation hit a 16-year high of 5.2% in September, although the Bank of England had anticipated the rise and the data are unlikely to prevent further interest rate cuts.

Former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker said the world's biggest economy was already in recession.

Trouble lurks in smaller economies too.

Officials from Iceland, driven close to collapse as frozen credit markets caused its banks to fail, are in Moscow for talks on an emergency loan that could be worth billions of euros.

Iceland's stock market plunged 76% as it resumed trading, having been shut down since last Thursday.

Some relief was evident in money markets.

Libor rates for overnight dollars were fixed at 2.18125%, down from 2.46875% on Monday, while the interbank cost of borrowing three-month dollars had its biggest fall since March and three-month euros charted the largest fall this year.

In Britain, banks bid for less than half the Ł40 billion of three-month cash offered by the Bank of England, suggesting the clamor for funds there had been reduced by the government's bank recapitalization plan.

But some 600 banks hoovered up €310 billion at a European Central Bank auction, rather than go to each other for liquidity.

The US administration will also reveal on Tuesday its intentions to allow the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp - which guarantees bank accounts - to insure senior preferred debt issued by banks and thrifts for three years, one source said.

That move appeared aimed at unlocking credit markets.

The US plan marks a quick about-face for Washington policymakers, who until recent days had been focusing on soaking up bad assets via a $700 billion fund approved by Congress.

The New York Times said Citi, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo would receive investments of $25 billion each. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley will get $10 billion each. (Reuters)