13 Nov 2008

Markets fall as US changes tack on bank bail-out

9:54 pm on 13 November 2008

Stock markets across Asia followed the downward trend set by sharp falls on Wall Street, as fears grow over the state of the United States economy.

The falls came as the US signalled a shift in focus on its $US700 billion bail-out.

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he would focus on taking stakes in banks to encourage them to increase lending, rather than buying up the banks' toxic mortgage debts.

The Nikkei share index in Japan dropped more than 6.3% by late afternoon trading on Thursday, while stock markets in South Korea, Hong Kong and Australia were all down more than 5%. Taiwan and Singapore were also lower.

The slumps followed a fall of nearly 5% in New York's Dow Jones index, closing down for a third consecutive day.

The largest computer chip-maker in the world, Intel, has warned that its profits will fall by $US1 billion and there are similar projections from other large American electronics companies.

Germany is officially in recession after government figures showed that the country's economy contracted by 0.5% in the third quarter. The European economic powerhouse has reported two quarters of negative growth.

Meanwhile, Japan is reportedly planning to offer up to $US105 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help bail out nations reeling from the global financial crisis.

Government sources in Tokyo said Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso would make the offer at a special meeting of the G20 nations on Friday in Washington.

Help for car industry

Leaders of the Democratic Party in the US have confirmed they are working on a bail-out package for the troubled car industry.

A leading Democrat, Barney Frank, says a draft bill under consideration will include a $US25 billion loan for the car-makers. He says the money will come from the already approved $US700 billion rescue package.

However, Mr Paulson says that money is intended only for helping the financial sector.

His comments regarding General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are likely to disappoint House of Representatives Speaker and Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

She has called for the government to take immediate action and spend some of the $US700 billion on the car giants, who are all now struggling against big losses and falling sales.

The outgoing Republican administration of President George Bush has so far opposed the plan.

America's big three car makers - Ford, General Motors and Chrysler - have suffered huge falls in sales. In October, President Bush signed legislation that gives them access to $US25 billion of cheap government-backed loans to help them develop less-polluting cars.