Asian stocks dive as panic spreads

Asian stocks dive as panic spreads

Hong Kong: Asian stock markets were hammered on Friday, with Tokyo diving 11% at one point as investors grew more concerned that the global credit crisis is getting out of control, dealers said.

Markets across the region plummeted into the red as dealers ignored a wave of interest rate cuts and billions of dollars of cash injections to sell their shares amid the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Investors took fright at news that the credit crisis has claimed its first Japanese financial institution with the bankruptcy of Yamato Life Insurance, pushing the Nikkei index down 9.6% at close.

It was the Nikkei’s biggest loss in two decades, surpassing Wednesday’s plunge of 9.38%. The Nikkei has lost more than 24% over the past week.

Hong Kong saw 7.2% wiped off its value. The market there has fallen 16% in the past week and 47% since the start of the year. Sydney was also battered, losing 8.3%, its biggest fall since the 1987 crash. Singapore lost 7.34% to its lowest level in more than four years as traders also took in data that showed the economy was in a technical recession. Seoul lost more than 4% and Shanghai was 3.5% off.

Manila also felt the pressure, diving more than 8% in its worst fall since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The heavy losses led Bangkok to suspend trading for half an hour after the bourse there dived more than 10%. It closed the day 9.6% down. Jakarta, which closed Wednesday after falling by the same amount, was suspended for a third straight day.

In India, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex index fell 7.07% to 10,527.85. Kuala Lumpur was 3.6% off and New Zealand was down 4.72%.

The markets were following slumps in Wall Street, where the Dow Jones plunged 7.33% overnight, closing below 9,000 points for the first time since 2003. The sell-offs came as world finance chiefs prepared an emergency meeting in Washington to stem the panic.

In Japan, the central bank tried to keep liquidity in the money market by pumping 4.5 trillion yen (Rs2.21 trillion), the most since the financial crisis started, while the stock exchange briefly halted some trading in futures and options. Singapore eased monetary policy for the first time in more than four years, while the Reserve Bank of India ploughed $8.2 billion into its market.