International Stock Markets, Oil Prices Slide

BANGKOK (AP) - International stock markets are sharply lower amid signs of a possible U.S. recession and renewed worries over the health of Europe's banks.

Asian stocks took a beating and European shares dipped while crude oil prices fell to near $79 a barrel in Asia, extending a major sell-off fueled by investor fears that slowing global growth
will undermine demand for crude.

Financial markets have wrestled for several weeks with fears that a new recession in the U.S. is in the offing. The number of people filing claims for unemployment benefits rose to 408,000 last week, an increase of 9,000 from the week before.

Still, analysts do not expect Asia's emerging economies - which are mostly enjoying robust growth - to be derailed by the current woes in the West.

The raft of bad economic news sparked a sell-off on Wall Street on Thursday. Futures trading suggests more losses today.