Tokyo/Sydney: Asian stocks tumbled, pushing the region’s benchmark index to the lowest level in three years, as credit markets seized up and concerns grew that more financial companies will collapse.

Macquarie Group Ltd, Australia’s largest investment bank, plunged by a record 23% as Morgan Stanley and HBOS Plc. sought buyers. Newcrest Mining Ltd rose as gold extended its biggest jump in 26 years. US three-month treasury yields traded near the lowest since World War II as investors fled for safer havens.

“Confidence has been shattered," said Nader Naeimi, a Sydney-based senior investment strategist at AMP Capital Investors Ltd, which manages about $108 billion (Rs5.04 trillion). “The market is worried about a domino effect in the financial sector, with no one sure who’s going to fall next."

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 1.7% to 108.74 as of 7.39pm in Tokyo, the lowest since 16 September 2005. The index trimmed an earlier 4.3% drop after the Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan moved to pump dollars into the financial system. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index rallied from a 7.7% loss to close little changed.

Most benchmark indexes in the region fell. Japan’s Nikkei 225 stock average lost 2.2% to 11,489.30, led by Sony Corp. after Goldman Sachs Group Inc. cut its recommendation. Taiwan’s Taiex index lost 2.7%, prompting the government to announce it may buy shares to help prop up the market.

Today’s central bank action, which was announced after Japanese and South Korean markets closed, is aimed at heading off the credit crisis that has caused Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy and the takeover of American International Group Inc. by the US government.

More than $19 trillion has been wiped off global stock market value since a high on 31 October as the worst US housing recession since the Great Depression and a resulting global credit crisis slowed the world economy.

Macquarie slid 23% to A$26.05, taking its loss from a high in May 2007 to 73%. Babcock and Brown Ltd, Australia’s second-biggest investment bank, lost 17% to 76 cents.