Obama pledges to halve US deficit

Regulators announce more aid for banking sector but US stocks fall to 12-year low.

    Obama is due to unveil the US's 2010 financial
    budget to congress [AFP]

    The US president had invited politicians from both Republican and Democrat parties, business leaders, union representatives and budget experts to Monday's summit to discuss ways to deal with issues such as health care, benefits and defence.
     
    "If we confront this crisis without also confronting the deficits that helped cause it, we risk sinking into another crisis down the road," Obama said.

    The US president is also due to unveil details of his proposed 2010 financial budget in his first speech to congress on Tuesday.

    Bank cash boost

    In depth
    Earlier on Monday, US banking regulators had offered to give more cash to ailing banks amid the nation's ongoing financial crisis.

    The Capital Assistance Progamme of aid to banks will conduct "stress tests" to assess whether banks are in need of fresh capital, regulators said on Monday.

    "The US government stands firmly behind the banking system during this period of financial strain to ensure it will be able to perform its key function of providing credit to households and businesses," the regulators said in a statement.

    Under the assistance programme, should banks be in need of additional cash they can seek private investment or temporary funds which will be provided by the US government, regulators said.

    Bank rumours

    Citigroup has lost billions of dollars in the
    global financial crisis [GALLO/GETTY]
    The news comes amid US media reports that banking giants Citigroup and Bank of America could receive more government funds to cover losses on risky investments.

    The reports said that Citigroup was in talks with the US government over taking a bigger stake in the bank, with the Wall Street Journal reporting it could be as much as 40 per cent of the bank's stock.

    Citigroup has already received $45bn of US government funding along with guarantees to cover losses on hundreds of billions of dollars in risky investments and loans from the government.

    Bank of America, which also received $45bn from the government and guarantees on a portion of its risky assets, is also among the banks that investors fear could be poised for a US government takeover.

    However the US government has denied it could partly or entirely nationalise the banks, with Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, saying on Friday there were no plans for the government to take further control of the US financial system.

    Al Jazeera's John Terrett in New York says nationalisation remains a dirty word in US business circles, which is why the Obama administration says it is prepared to stand behind banks with money as a cushion, but wants private equity firms such as sovereign wealth funds to assist the banks.

    Only if the private sector cannot help will the government step in, he says, although there remains a real concern that the banks will be overwhelmed by their debts.

    US stocks fell following the reports, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking 250.73 points, or 3.4 per cent to 7,114.94 at the closing bell, its lowest level since May 1997.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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