Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, announced an emergency meeting with the country's top business leaders on Friday to tackle the threat of global recession.

Just days after announcing a $7.3bn stimulus package, Rudd said he would consult major mining, software and finance leaders to hear their views on what else could be done to mitigate the "very, very tough time ahead".

Mixed news

In the US, stocks climbed on a late rally, with the Dow Jones index of leading US shares closing higher by nearly five per cent on Thursday.

IN DEPTH

How the financial bubble burst

Q&A: The US financial meltdown

Reacting to the financial crisis

Wall Street gripped by uncertainty

The rally came as the interest rates banks charge each other for loans mostly fell, following moves by central banks and governments to unlock credit markets and get banks to lend to each other again.

But news that US industrial output had suffered its worst fall in more than three decades increased recession fears that had caused a record plunge on Wall Street a day earlier.

However, one US labour department report said unemployment appeared to be down while another report indicated consumer prices were unexpectedly flat in September, signalling a lower risk of inflation.

That was partly due to tumbling oil prices - falling to a 14 month low at just under $70 a barrel - which have prompted the Opec group of oil producing countries to bring forward an emergency summit to discuss the global financial crisis.

A recession traditionally means a decrease in oil demand and Opec countries may now cut down production to keep prices from continuing to fall.

John Terrett, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the New York stock exchange, said it had been an extremely volatile day with no clear direction.

And while there was no easy answer as to why the market closed higher, the overriding fear was of a recession in the US spilling over to the rest of the world, our correspondent said.

Paulson admits 'mistakes'

Those fears were addressed on Thursday by Henry Paulson, the US treasury secretary, who expressed regret for errors that led to the financial crisis but also said the government was now pursuing the correct course to "mitigate the impact on the real economy".

"We're not proud of all the mistakes that were made by many different people, different parties, failures of our regulatory system, failures of market discipline that got us here," Paulson said in an interview on Fox Business Network.

But he said he had "no regrets" about the steps the government was taking now to address the problem - having the government spend $250bn to in effect partially nationalise the banking system - and pledged to "get this financial system working again".