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Dow takes another dive: what is making investors worried

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On the first issue, many forecasters say the risk of another recession has risen, but that continued growth remains the likeliest scenario. Jobs and incomes have been rising in the US, for example, albeit slowly.

On the second issue, a widespread view among investment strategists is that governments may not have many tools left to aid the economy. Precious resources have already been spent fighting the last recession, and political obstacles in the US and Europe make it hard to achieve consensus on new measures.

In Europe, the challenge is how disparate nations can come together on a plan to hold their currency union together, even as Italy joins Greece and Spain on the list of problem debtors.

In America, the recent debt-ceiling negotiations made clear that bipartisan compromises will be hard to come by heading into the 2012 election, and that Republican lawmakers have no appetite for another round of deficit spending aimed at stimulating the economy

Perhaps most of all, though, the debt-limit brinkmanship left President Obama looking weaker – unable to push his goal of a "grand bargain" on fiscal policy to the finish line. Some critics say he also appears out of touch, pushing tax hikes on the rich, which they say undermines the important goal of job creation.

"Businesses, investors and ordinary Americans simply lack confidence in the ability of the Obama administration to get the country growing and create jobs," economist Peter Morici at the University of Maryland wrote in an analysis Wednesday.

That doesn't mean stocks deserve to keep falling. Some analysts say the sell-off is already overblown, and that the economic and political conditions are not that dire.

But a widespread view among business managers is that the Obama administration and Congress could be doing more to instill optimism.

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