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Morning Market Roundup: Stocks Down on Presidential Election, EU Recession to Get Worse, Exxon out of Iraq?

Here’s what’s important in the business world this morning:

Stocks: Stocks are opening sharply lower on Wall Street following the presidential election and dire warnings from Europe that a broad recession there is now all but certain.

Index futures had been higher early Wednesday but reversed course after the European Union slashed its growth forecast for next year, sending European stock markets sharply lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 196 points to 13,046 points shortly after the opening bell.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 17 points to 1,411 and the Nasdaq composite was off 37 points at 2,974.

European markets gave up early gains and turned sharply lower. Investors are also worried about what Washington will do about looming tax increases and government spending cuts.

EU: Europe's economy is still reeling and unemployment could remain high for years in spite of the progress made in solving the debt crisis, the European Union warned Wednesday as it downgraded its forecasts for the 27-country bloc.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, on Wednesday revised its forecast for the economy of the entire region, saying that it now expected gross domestic product to contract by 0.3 percent on an annual basis this year, rather than remaining flat as it predicted in the spring. It also said that the 17 countries that use the euro will contract, with GDP falling 0.4 percent, against a previous expectation of a 0.3 percent fall.

But the most significant downgrades are for next year's forecasts. The commission had expected the eurozone to find its footing in 2013, with 1 percent growth. Now it predicts only a 0.1 percent uptick. For all 27 countries in the EU, it forecasts 0.4 percent growth, compared with 1.3 percent last spring.

The report also suggests that unemployment won't start falling until 2014 - and then only slightly.

Exxon: U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil Corp. has expressed an interest in pulling out of a major oil field development project in the country's south, a senior Iraqi oil ministry official said Wednesday.

The comments by the ministry's licensing and contracts chief, Abdul-Mahdi al-Ameedi, were the first official acknowledgement of reports that Exxon wants to exit the 8.6 billion barrel West Qurna Phase 1 project.

"There is talk about this issue. In fact, Exxon Mobil is interested in selling its whole share or part of it to other companies and leave West Qurna," al-Ameedi told reporters at an event in the Iraqi capital.

Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil is the main developer of the West Qurna-1 project. It was awarded rights to work on the field in 2009 along with minority partner Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Exxon had no comment about the possibility that it might leave the project - a position it has maintained for weeks despite reports that have resonated in the markets.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.                            

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