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WORLD MARKETS Associated Press

TOKYO -- Fears about a wilting U.S. economic recovery chipped away at share prices in Asia and Europe on Monday, after news of telecommunications giant WorldCom's bankruptcy further jolted anxious markets across the world.

Asian bourses started with a spate of selling, taking their cue from the plunge on Wall Street last week. In Tokyo, Asia's biggest stock market, the benchmark index slid and then recovered slightly but settled lower at the end of the session.

"I have no confidence about what's going to happen tomorrow," said Masanori Hoshina, a trader at BNP Paribas Securities in Tokyo. "The buying here today is happening because people expected things to be worse."

The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average closed down 13.35 points, or 0.13 percent, to finish at 10,189.01 points. Earlier in the day, the index recovered after losing 1.37 percent in early trading but it finished the session lower.

The news about the WorldCom bankruptcy arrived just as trading started in Asia. It is just the latest in a series of corporate collapses in the United States that have stirred fears in Asian stock markets.

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The bad news is also coming at a time when Japanese firms are counting on exports to the United States and the rest of Asia to lift profits and help the nation's budding recovery.

Wall Street's woes hurt other Asian bourses as well and sent share prices downward in Europe, including Paris, London and Frankfurt, in early trading. Benchmarks in such stock markets were down by about 2 percent in early trading.

"People are very nervous about the United States, and the market consensus is that it will take a long time for the American market to manage its accounting problem," said Lim Changgue, a fund manager at Samsung Investment Trust Management in South Korea.

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