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Asian Markets Take Beating - 2001-09-12

In Asia, stock markets that opened Wednesday took a beating in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history. But some countries decided to suspend trading altogether.

Panic overtook Asia's largest stock market Wednesday. The Nikkei Average plunged 6.6 percent, falling to its lowest level since 1984. The market fell below the 10,000 level a few minutes after opening and never recovered the lost ground. It closed at 9,610.

The president of the Tokyo Stock Exchange issued a statement, asking investors to operate in a discreet and appropriate way. Japanese regulators imposed limits on declines to help control the fall.

Japanese Finance Minister Masajuro Shiokawa spoke by telephone to U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and promised that Tokyo would closely monitor market activity and take action when necessary.

The Bank of Japan pumped more than $16 billion into the country's financial system to help provide some stability.

Basil Masters, a Tokyo-based fund manager for Indocam Japan, says that investors remain deeply shaken and concerned about the prospect of a recession in the United States. "This is a very natural reaction to the fear that U.S. consumption will decline and will take a further hit in the wake of strikes of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," Masters said.

In other parts of the Asia Pacific, markets also took a slide. Steven Kirchner is with the Sydney-based economic research and rating agency, Standard and Poors. "I think investors obviously are very concerned in terms of the uncertainty that has been raised by the events in the United States. I think its uncertainty more than anything else that is going to be weighing the regional markets," Mr. Kirchner said. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index shed more than eight percent. Hong Kong's currency is linked to the dollar and the Chinese territory's economy is deeply entwined with that of the United States.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index fell seven-percent and in Sydney, the All Ordinaries index lost four percent to close at 3,051. In Seoul the blue chip KOSPI lost 12 percent to 475, a record one day drop.

Malaysia kept its stock market shut Wednesday as did Taiwan and Thailand.

The dollar weakened in slow Asian trading. It fell below 119 yen amid concerns that investors would shift out of dollar-based assets.