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US to G20: Spend, Spend, Spend

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Government tries to shift focus away from stricter regulation.

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4 months ago, as financial markets spun out of control, the world's brightest economic minds engineered a coordinate global cut in interest rates. Their aim: Save the financial system from imminent collapse.

The move sparked a sharp 20% rally in the S&P 500. The index has since tumbled more than 30% to lows not seen since the 1990s.

If markets are jittery once again, it's not without justification: In just under a month, global leaders will once again put their heads together, this time to hash out the best way to solve the deepening economic malaise. Hopes are high lawmakers will dream up new (and better) ways to get the world's largest economies back on track.

On April 2, in London, the US is expected to encourage its counterparts at the Group of 20 Summit to increase government-spending efforts to revitalize flagging economies. According to the Wall Street Journal, President Obama and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner are expected to butt heads with European officials, who would prefer to shift the focus onto crafting stricter financial regulations.

The European Union, many believe, is facing an even worse economic outlook than the US. But those across the pond could need fewer new spending initiatives, since they have further-reaching social programs already in place. In addition, the European Central Bank, or ECB, is far more hawkish (read: concerned) about inflation than is our Federal Reserve.

Digging ourselves out of this mess with more borrowing could spark renewed inflation.

The ECB took longer to lower interest rates last year despite deteriorating economic conditions, citing worries about rising prices. In contrast, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke aggressively reduced borrowing costs in the hope that companies would borrow to jumpstart new growth. Frozen credit markets didn't cooperate, plunging the financial system into widespread disarray.

Of the countries that make up the G20, only Saudi Arabia, Spain and Australia plan to spend more propping up their economy than the US, according to data compiled by the International Monetary Fund. Of course, that doesn't include the hundreds of billions already wasted - um, injected into the likes of Goldman Sachs (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), JPMorgan (JPM), Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

Also left out of these figures are the trillions of dollars the Fed has pumped into the financial system to keep credit flowing -- however reluctantly -- throughout the economy.

The upcoming meeting marks President Obama's first chance to woo world leaders on the global stage. And while his social programs may gain favor among certain European lawmakers, his country's role in creating this mess certainly won't.

The rest of the world increasingly feels its being forced to clean up a problem that was largely American-made.
No positions in stocks mentioned.

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