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Asian markets hit new low as credit fears grip investors

Latest update : 2008-09-18

More financial damage was seen in Asia on Thursday with heavy falls recorded in Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul. Two more Wall Street names, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, also sustained heavy falls in share prices.

Also read: ECB injects 70 billion euros into money market

and: Global credit crunch spells uncertainty for Airbus

Watch our programme 'Top Story' on the Wall Street meltdown

 
HONG KONG - Asian stocks tumbled 3-7 percent on Thursday,
with emergency actions by central banks and governments around
the world failing to ease a financial crisis that has sent investors
fleeing to government bonds.
 

The seismic shift on Wall Street this week continued to
create a sense of global panic, with frenetic consolidation in
the financial sector in the world's largest economy, sending
the MSCI all-country world stocks index to its lowest since
November 2005.
 

Investors piled into short-term U.S. Treasuries, pushing
yields down close to zero as investors bailed from money market
funds. Even the Federal Reserve had to receive a $40 billion
injection from the U.S. Treasury to help it manage its balance
sheet, after the Fed offered $85 billion in loans to rescue
American International Group on Wednesday.
 

Overnight, No. 2 U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley and
top U.S. savings and loan Washington Mutual were reportedly up
for sale, and a source familiar with the matter said Britain's
Lloyds TSB agreed to buy rival HBOS, reflecting the unstable
landscape that has contributed to gold's 18 percent surge in
the last week.
 

"Credit fears have now reached a climax. It's presumptuous
to assume it would end in one day," said Harushige Kobayashi,
head of research department at broker Securities Japan.
 

"The market ignores fundamentals and is now 95 percent
driven by psychological factors."
 

The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index or VIX,
Wall Street's main barometer of investor fear, closed on
Wednesday at its highest level in almost six years.
 

Another measure of investor distaste for risk, the TED
spread of 3-month interbank lending rates over 3-month U.S.
Treasury bill yields blew out to more than 300 basis points,
far exceeding levels reached during the U.S. savings and loan
crisis of the 1980s.
 

Japan's Nikkei share average fell 3.6 percent to a
three-year low early on Thursday, with shares in high-profile
exporters such as Sony and Honda Motor Co the biggest drags.
 

The MSCI Asia-Pacific ex-Japan stocks index fell 3.9
percent to its lowest since July 2006. The index is down 39.3
percent so far this year.
 

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index dropped 6.6 percent to the
lowest in two years, led by HSBC stock, down 5.9 percent.
 

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which gave up its
title of world's biggest bank to HSBC on Wednesday, saw its
shares drop 12 percent.
 

Russia on Wednesday halted stock and bond trading on the
country's MICEX and RTS exchanges as investors and dealers
desperately liquidated positions for cash. It was not clear
when the exchanges would open again.
 

NO SAFETY
 

Gold prices were whipsawed in the spot market, slipping 0.4
percent after earlier rising to a 1-month high Gold posted its
biggest nominal rise ever in dollars on Wednesday as frenzied
investors sought relatively safe assets.
 

"This is stunning, and testimony to these historic times,"
said Alan Ruskin, chief international strategist with RBS
Greenwich Capital, in a note. "It is clear that fear and a
desperate search for a hedge against risk has trumped all."
 

Central banks in Japan and Australia pumped $17 billion
into money markets to prevent banks of hoarding cash amid an
environment of distrust and uncertainty.
 

Fear of the unknown has also pushed investors to government
bonds, chasing safety above all else, even yield. U.S. Treasury
bill yields inched toward zero.
 

One-month Treasury yields dipped to 0.010 percent, from
0.040 percent late in New York on Wednesday, when it may have
actually traded at negative levels, according to dealers.
 

"This corner of the cash market is significant because its
a rich, deep pool of liquidity that is tapped by insurance
funds, banks and brokers. Stress here signals another
impediment to vital liquidity," said Brett Williams, credit
analyst with BNP Paribas in Hong Kong.
 

Investors are quickly learning that in the current crisis
almost nothing is safe, even U.S. money market funds.
 

Late Wednesday, Moody's Investors Service sharply
downgraded the Reserve Primary Fund after it fell below $1 a
share in net asset value due to losses on debt issued by Lehman
Brothers, which has filed for bankruptcy protection.
 

Crude oil held steady at a little above $97 a barrel after
jumping $6 on Wednesday.

Date created : 2008-09-18

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