Worries about the world-leading U.S. economy and fears over bank credit rippled across financial markets on Monday, sending stocks sharply lower and dragging the dollar to a record low against the euro.

Oil prices eased more than $1, but remained above $87 a barrel.

Finance leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations said over the weekend that the world economy was fine but that financial market conditions required close monitoring because of shortcoming exposed by the credit crisis.

This did little to allay market concerns, particularly following disappointing earnings from U.S. economic bellwether Caterpillar Inc on Friday, which also said there was a 50-50 chance of a U.S. recession next year.

MSCI's main world stock index was down 0.7 percent and its normally high-flying emerging market counterpart fell more than 2 percent.

Stephen Dowds, head of international equities at Northern Trust Global Investments, said investors were reacting to sharp losses on Wall Street on Friday but also to the current crop of earnings statements.

We have had a flurry of disappointments, he said.

European stocks took a hit. The FTSEurofirst 300 index of top European shares was down 1.4 percent.

Earlier, Japan's Nikkei average ended at a four-week closing low, down 375.90 points or 2.2 percent at 16,438.47. The broader TOPIX index fell 1.8 percent to 1,563.07.


The dollar hit a record low against the euro on Monday before recovering as traders seized on the G7's apparent indifference toward dollar weakness as a cue to sell.

G7 officials made no explicit reference to the U.S. currency's weakness.

There were some fears that somehow the G7 was going to mention dollar weakness but this was not the case and this gave the green light for dollar selling, said Chris Turner, head of FX strategy at ING.

The euro was flat at $1.4311 but had earlier hit $1.4348, its highest since the single European currency was launched in 1999.

Euro zone government bond prices rose.

It's all about stocks, credit scares are back, said one trader.

Two-year bond yields were 2.3 basis points lower at 3.984 percent, while 10-year yields were at 4.201 percent.