WASHINGTON - Rep. John J. LaFalce, D-N.Y., has asked House Financial Services Committee Chairman Michael G. Oxley to convene hearings on "the state of the global economy."

Rep. LaFalce, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the committee should pay close attention to world equity markets.

"Equity markets have declined dramatically: the Nasdaq has declined 60% from its peak, the Nikkei 225 nearly 70%, and the FTSE Eurotop 300 nearly 20%," Rep. LaFalce wrote Friday. "We are now living in a global equity culture in which dramatic swings in market performance can have profound effects on underlying economic fundamentals."

Rep. LaFalce also wants the committee to examine the health of the worldwide banking industry. Noting the Fitch credit rating agency's recent downgrading of 19 major Japanese banks, including global giant Mizuho Holdings Inc., Rep. LaFalce said Congress needs to be mindful of the effect such events could have on the U.S. market.

News of the credit agency's actions caused U.S. bank stocks to decline, he said.

"I strongly believe the Financial Services Committee should make an examination of these concerns a first-order priority," he wrote.

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