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Europe's financial crisis is spreading eastward

Hungary and Ukraine received emergency loans from the IMF Sunday. Belarus and Serbia are asking for help, too.

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A rapidly mounting currency crisis within Eastern Europe is threatening to spill across the wider European Union, an event that could spark a second epicenter in the global financial crisis, economists say.

That's why the International Monetary Fund (IMF) moved quickly to approve loans to Ukraine and Hungary Sunday. Belarus and Serbia are also asking for assistance.

The IMF loan helped stabilize Hungary's currency on Monday. But many Eastern European currencies have fallen as much as 25 percent against the dollar and euro. The euro's own devaluation of late is part of the problem.

The euro hit a two-year low against the dollar Monday, reflecting new concern that Western European banks are too exposed to the emerging economies of Eastern Europe, having lent heavily to many when they joined the European Union (EU) in 2004.

With currencies there diving, and credit drying up overall, the fear is that these countries will soon not be able to finance their debts, threatening Western Europe with large losses.

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