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Asian Stock Markets Continue Downward Trend

Stock markets in Asia have followed the downward trend set by Wall Street as fears mount over the state of the ailing global economy. The Australian government says it is hopeful that a coordinated response to the world's economic problems will emerge from an emergency meeting in Washington this week. From Sydney, Phil Mercer reports.

A deep sense of gloom has again descended over Asian stock markets.

In Japan, the Nikkei share index fell by more than five percent Thursday, as did while Hong Kong's Hang Seng.

Markets in Australia, South Korea and Taiwan were all down. The slumps across Asia followed a decline of nearly five percent in New York's Dow Jones index, its third straight loss.

Analysts say that panicked investors are worried that giant financial bail-outs by governments around the world have failed to halt a downward spiral in global markets.

The international financial crisis will be discussed at a meeting this weekend of the G20, a grouping of the world's largest economies.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd will be among the leaders attending the emergency summit in Washington on Saturday.

Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan will also be there and hopes that decisive action will emerge from the talks.

"We've made it pretty clear yes there does need to be better regulation, there's no doubt about that. There needs to be better supervision, and of course there does need to be better coordination between the major agencies," said Swan. "At the moment we've got the IMF and the World Bank, two old, established institutions, and we've got the Financial Stability Forum. We've also got the needs of countries who must attend to their own domestic arrangements as well, and we need to put in place a way in which they can co-operate."

As world leaders gather in Washington to discuss the perilous state of the global financial system, more bad news on the state of the U.S. economy emerged.

America's three big car makers - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - all suffered big declines in sales - announcements that will add to the general air of pessimism that pervades the stock markets.

U.S. retailers also say their sales have fallen, and may continue to do so.

That will hurt exporters in Asia, which rely on American consumers to buy their products.

Also on Thursday came news that Germany had slipped into recession, which follows warnings in Britain that it too may be in a recession.