Obama, CEOs talk markets, global economy woes

WASHINGTON Fri Aug 12, 2011 4:14pm EDT

1 of 2. President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at an iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House in Washington August 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Yuri Gripas

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global financial upheaval was on the agenda on Friday when President Barack Obama met with top executives from the U.S. business community, the White House said.

Chief executives from Johnson & Johnson, Wells Fargo & Co, U.S. Bank, Xerox Corp, BlackRock Inc, Silver Lake Partners, American Express and U.S. Steel all met with Obama to discuss the economy and the president's plans to create jobs.

Obama held his latest in a series of talks with Big Business against the backdrop of a euro zone debt crisis that has hit financial markets worldwide, adding to investor anxiety in the aftermath of last week's U.S. credit downgrade.

Before Friday's session which included major players from the financial sector, the White House said market turmoil and economic troubles around the world would be among the issues discussed, along with the U.S. economy and job creation.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest denied the meeting was called in reaction to market and global concerns but said: "They'll certainly talk about these issues, about the market reaction here."

The meeting came at the end of a volatile week. U.S. stocks rose on Friday as mildly upbeat retail sales data offset a closely watched barometer showing U.S. consumer sentiment at its lowest point in more than three decades.

European stock markets also gained despite continued concern about French banks' exposure to European debt woes.

Critics have complained that Obama has failed to reassure Americans as markets whipsawed this week, in one of the most dramatic periods in the stock market since he took office amid the financial crisis in January 2009.

He said on Thursday that Europe's debt troubles were among the global challenges weighing on the struggling U.S. recovery, but the White House said the administration remained confident in European leaders' ability to handle the situation.

Obama's hopes for re-election in 2012 will likely hinge on his success in lowering unemployment, currently pinned above 9 percent, boosting sluggish growth and restoring confidence lost from the Standard & Poor's downgrade and fractious debt talks.

White House meetings with executives have become almost routine as Obama has courted business leaders while seeking to cast himself as more of a centrist.

(Reporting by Karey Wutkowski and Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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