News & Current Affairs

November 20, 2008

Asia markets follow US share drop

Asia markets follow US share drop

Man walking past share board

Concerns are increasing over the scale of the slowdown

Asian markets have plummeted after the Dow Jones share index in New York fell to its lowest level in five years, amid fears of a protracted global recession.

Japan’s Nikkei index ended 6.8% down and Hong Kong’s main index fell 5.5%.

Data showing Japan’s exports to Asia dropped in October for the first time since 2002 added to fears over the scale of the economic downturn.

On Wednesday, Wall Street shares fell 5% after the US central bank slashed its economic growth forecasts for 2009.

‘No positives’

Japan and other Asian nations are heavily reliant on exports.

Sales to other Asia nations have helped to limit the impact for Japanese exporting firms suffering from lower demand from the US and Europe.

But exports to Asia fell 4% last month from a year earlier, showing the extent of the global slowdown.

Several East Asian countries – including Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong – are already in recession and the thought that the US may be about to join them has been enough to send shares tumbling across the region.

Man walks past an electronic share price board in Toyko, Japan, 20 November 2008

Share prices in Tokyo and elsewhere slumped

Bad news from the US worries Japanese firms like Toyota and Nintendo which usually depend on American consumers to make a lot of their profit, our correspondent adds.

“We’ve gone past the poor sentiment stage,” Miles Remington, head of Asian sales trading at BNP Paribas Securities in Hong Kong, told the Associated Press news agency.

“People are looking for any kind of positive and there are just no positives out there. Everyone seems to be united in the depressed global outlook. Whether it’s commodities or equities, everything seems to be on a downturn.”

US slowdown

On Wednesday, the US Federal Reserve said the country’s gross domestic product – the value of all goods and services – could be flat or grow only marginally this year, and might shrink in 2009.

It said positive economic growth was only likely to return in 2010 and predicted further interest rate cuts might be necessary.

Month-on-month US consumer prices fell by 1% in October – the biggest drop in 60 years – which has reinforced fears of rapid slowdown.

Car problems

Carmakers were among the biggest fallers as the Dow Jones average closed down 427 points at 7,997 on Wednesday – dropping below the 8,000-level for the first time since 2003.

GM shares were down 15% at a 66-year low, while rival Ford slumped to a 26-year low.

Prospects for an industry bail-out remain uncertain and politicians have been arguing over a compromise deal.

Chief executives from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler say the firms could collapse unless they receive aid fast – which could lead to millions of job losses across the US.

But the automakers have faced fierce questions on Capitol Hill about their request for a $25bn (£16.6bn) bail-out deal.

Investors are concerned about how a possible bankruptcy among US carmakers could further hurt an already fragile economy.


What is your reaction to the stock market losses? Have you been affected by the downturn? You can send us your experiences

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September 18, 2008

September 14, 2008

Talks over sale of Lehman resume

Talks over sale of Lehman resume

Lehman Brothers headquarters

Lehman is the fourth largest US investment bank

Negotiations have restarted to find a buyer for troubled US investment bank Lehman Brothers, before a Sunday evening deadline.

Bank of America and UK lender Barclays are said to be the main candidates to buy all or part of the company.

Lehman is up for sale after it reported a $3.9bn (£2.2bn) quarterly loss last week amid concerns over its long term financial viability.

The firm’s share price has plummeted as fears over its future have mounted.

‘Rescue package’

The talks to sell Lehman are being led by senior officials from the US Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.

Graph

It is understood that the US government wishes to arrange a bailout package under which other US investment banks – such as Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs – would contribute funds to a rescue deal which would see Lehman’s balance sheet cleaned up before its sale.

Although this is expected to cost the banks many millions, the alternative would likely be a sharp fall in their share prices if Lehman was to fail.

A number of sources report that US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is determined that no tax payers’ money will be used to help Lehman.

‘Difficult decision’

Former Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan said the US government faces “very difficult decisions” over Lehman if it cannot secure a rescue deal that does not involve public funds.

” “They [will then] have to make a very difficult decision as to whether or not they allow it to liquidate or they support it,” he said.

Yet Mr Greenspan said it would be “unsustainable” for the government to bail-out every US bank that got itself into difficulty.

Predicting that Lehman would not be the last to require rescuing, Mr Greenspan added that this would not necessarily pose a problem.

“The ordinary course of financial change has winners and losers,” he said.

Bad mortgage woes

Lehman could be sold off as one company, or else broken up into parts and sold separately.

While the firm got itself into financial difficulty due to extensive bad mortgage debts, its fund management business is in relatively good shape, analysts say.

Neither Bank of America or Barclays have made any comment.

Lehman’s shares lost 80% of their value last week, and its quarterly loss was the largest in its history.

The firm is the fourth-largest US investment bank.

Concerns over the fate of Lehman follow the bail-out last weekend of mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

The lenders were thrown into financial difficulty after the collapse of the US sub-prime mortgage market.

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